The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on July 12 ruled in favor of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute, and Taipei has stated it would never accept the decision.

The ruling is significant to Taiwan for it does not recognize Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island (Itu Aba) as an island, but instead regards it as a reef, which could have serious repercussions for the local fishing industry.

Taiping Island’s downgrading means that the originally 200 nm exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will be reduced to 12 nm, and the number of tuna, shark, and swordfish Taiwan can catch in the region may plunge.

Fisheries Agency Deputy Director Huang Hong-yen (黃鴻燕) says, however, that because the Taiwanese government does not accept the PCA’s ruling, Taiwanese fishing boats can still move freely in the region.

Ko Shan-yu (柯尚余), deputy director of the Marine Bureau under the Kaohsiung City Government, points out that the government has already declared it will defend Taiwan’s sovereignty of Taiping Island, and the Navy and Coast Guard Administration will reinforce protection of the fishing industry.

Coast Guard Administration Minister Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) also says the CGA will ensure the rights of fishermen if they are driven out of the South China Sea.

The Fishermen’s Association in Donggang, Pingtung, however, says that because Taiping is closer to Vietnam, many Vietnamese fishermen would interfere with Taiwanese fishing boats. This led to the fishermen of Pingtung moving to catch tuna and swordfish closer to the Philippines and Japan five years ago, so the association believes the ruling won't have a major effect on the fishermen.

According to statistics from the Council of Agriculture, the average annual value of the offshore fishery industry in Taiwan is worth NT$18 billion (US$560 million).

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Edward White