Translated and compiled by Shin-wei Chang

A pile of young sharks bodies without fins found in Hsinchu in February brought attention to Taiwan’s illegal shark finning issue again. Last October, a Taiwanese fishing boat, Shuen De Ching No. 888, was found cutting off fins from sharks and throwing their bodies back into the sea. The act not only raised worldwide attention, but the EU also issued a yellow card to Taiwan.

►Related News: Piles of Sharks Without Fins Found Under Bridge In Taiwan

UDN News reports, Taiwanese fishing boats have been finning sharks for a long time and the act has made international headlines multiple times. Last October, the European Commission pointed out the lack of surveillance and control of long-distance fishing boats from the Taiwanese government. In addition, it says, “Taiwan does not systematically comply with Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) obligations.” If the situations are not improved within six months, Taiwan might face a red-card warning and sanctions to Taiwanese fisheries. If so, the Taiwanese fishing industry might face damage up to NT$500 million (approximately US$15 million).

Greenpeace call for actions from the government

As the deadline from the EU for Taiwan to amend fisheries laws is approaching at the end of March, Greenpeace Taiwan has launched a petition to call for the government to take action, protecting Taiwanese fishermen from being sanctioned. It has already garnered over 20,000 signatures.

Greenpeace Taiwan suggests, there are too many Taiwanese long-distance fleets and the Fisheries Agency has not enough staff and budget to keep track of them all. Most of the fishing boats stay in the international waters for years, only returning to Taiwan once in a while. This has become a serious loophole in the management of fishing boats.

Moreover, Greenpeace Taiwan urges the Taiwanese government to raise the fine for illegal fishing. According to international standards, the fishing boat has to be fined five times the value of its catches if caught fishing illegally. However, current Taiwanese laws only fine up to NT$300,000 (approximately US$9,000).

UDN News reports, for the past five months, the Fisheries Agency has not made the drafts for related law amendments public. Furthermore, it did not hold any public hearings to collect suggestions from experts or fishermen.

Amendments in progress

In response, the Fisheries Agency says the draft for amendments have been completed, and can be sent to the Executive Yuan as early as March 17. Administrative officials say they have been in contact with the EU, asking for its advice on regulations regarding fining illegal fishing, fishing boat registrations, fisheries tracking systems and so on. Since the requests of the EU are all listed in the amendments, officials believe the EU would respect the amendment process, so there is no need to concern about a red card.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also says it would assist the negotiation between the Fisheries Agency and the EU to protect the country’s national image and fishery interests.

Complaints from Taiwanese fishermen

Hsieh Wen-jung, chairman of the Taiwan Deep Sea Tuna Fishery Development Foundation, is not happy with the amendments. Hsieh says, “To be frank, only Taiwanese fishing boats would be caught fishing illegally.” To compare with other countries, Hsieh takes Japan for example. “Japan is also one of the largest fishing country in the world and their fishing boats are still catching dolphins and whales in international waters,” he says.

Lei Tzu-kang, chairman of the Taiwan Squid Foundation, also responds to the issue. Lei says that although Taiwan is a member of The North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) and have the chance to speak out, our power to make decisions is limited.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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