The Fisheries Agency on Sunday began the first phase of examinations to recruit 79 personnel to conduct an increased number of inspections to improve the labor conditions of migrant crew employed on Taiwanese-owned distant-water fishing (DWF) vessels.
A total of 189 examinees attended written exams in Taipei and Kaohsiung to qualify to work in a variety of positions, including as investigators of labor rights violations, catch inspectors and translators, the agency said in a statement.
An oral exam is to be held on Aug. 20, with the names of the successful applicants to be released on Sept. 2, it said.
The recruits “will become a new force for safeguarding fishery rights in the country, improving the capacity of Taiwan’s fishery management, and promoting the sustainable development of the industry,” agency Acting Director-General Chang Chih-sheng (張致盛) said.
The hiring is part of a broader action plan the agency has adopted to improve working conditions for migrant fishers on Taiwan’s DWF fleets.
Taiwan has one of the world’s largest DWF fleets. Rights groups such as Greenpeace and Taiwanese migrants’ organizations have long highlighted human rights contraventions on Taiwan-owned vessels, including debt-bondage contract arrangements, withheld wages, poor working and living conditions, and physical abuse.
The government has been under increased pressure to remedy these problems after numerous cases were reported.
Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union secretary-general Allison Lee (李麗華) said she sees problems in the way the new personnel are being recruited, which she says might favor Taiwanese DWF vessel owners during inspections.
“Many of the examinees are from organizations founded or organized by Taiwanese vessel owners. Since the recruits also worked for vessel owners, it is likely they might not conduct proper labor checks,” Lee said.
“It is like being a sports competitor while also being the referee during a match,” she added.
Lee said that the new inspectors are contract workers, not civil servants.
The new inspectors and translators are likely to begin work by the end of September, said Chiu Yi-hsien (邱宜賢), section chief at the agency’s Deep Sea Fisheries Division.
The are to be concentrated in the DWF ports of Nanfangao (南方澳) in Yilan, Cianjhen (前鎮) in Kaohsiung and Donggang (東港) in Pingtung.
There are about 21,000 migrant fishers employed on Taiwanese DWF fleets, including 13,000 Indonesians and 6,300 Filipinos, agency officials said.
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