Last October a Taiwanese fishing boat was caught illegally finning sharks, leading to a yellow card by the EU against Taiwan. The EU gave the Taiwanese government six months to amend laws preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) or it would issue a red-card warning and impose sanctions on Taiwanese fisheries.

On July 6 the Legislative Yuan passed new regulations on pelagic fishing with amendments that align Taiwan with international fishery regulations and regulate IUU fishing while implementing import controls. The yellow card issued by the EU is likely to be dismissed before the EU's second examination next month.

Although the EU penalties on Taiwan appear to have been resolved, a feature story by Initium Media says the incident highlights the challenges that the fishery industries in both Taiwan and China have faced in recent years due to lack of fish in nearby waters, which has pushed the two countries to expand their pelagic fishing operations.

Since Taiwan and China have similar pelagic fishing models, the latter will have trouble avoiding the same difficulties as Taiwan, which enjoys a 30-year head run in developing its fisheries, the report says.

Developments in China

According to reports from the United Nations Foods and Agriculture Organization, China currently owns one-fourth of the fishing boats in the world and catches over one-third of the world’s fisheries production.

The Chinese government has also encouraged Chinese fishermen through policies and subsidies to develop their activities in more distant waters. Many global experts have pointed out that this has led to the acceleration of marine resource consumption, and members of World Trade Organization have long discussed the need to promote cutbacks in fishery subsidies.

Other global organizations have also accused China of illegal fishing in other parts of the world, mostly in West Africa, which is the first area where Chinese fishing boats started developing pelagic fishing in the 1980s.

The Role of China in World Fisheries,” a 2012 study conducted by the European Parliament, showed that between 2000 and 2011, Chinese fishing boats produced of 3.1 million tons from West African waters, of which around 2.5 tons were IUU catches. China has yet to receive any penalty from the EU, and IUU fishing by Chinese fishing boats in West Africa remains an issue.

In an op-ed in Initium Media, Hsu Tzu-hsuan (徐子軒), a PhD student at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, says the rise of Chinese fishing boats has “raised concerns among neighboring countries that China is turning a blind eye to international laws,” which will exact a heavy price if the laws lose efficacy and need to be reconstructed.

What about Taiwan?

Meanwhile Taiwan's pelagic fishery industry is facing difficulties in sustainability, transformation, and upgrading.

Kuo Ting-chun (郭庭君), founder of Ocean says, a knowledge-sharing community on marine resources, says in an op-ed in Initium Media that the government and NGOs should work together in managing Taiwan's fishery industry rather than behave as opponents.

The ongoing conflict between authorities and NGOs result from three things: fishermen's refusal to acknowledge the goal of sustainability, distrust in policies, and lack of confidence in government authorities, Kuo says.

She says Taiwan should try to raise awareness on marine resource sustainability, utilize technology to collect information, and routinely adjust management models to improve and protect the nation's fishery industry.

Edited by: J. Michael Cole