Kaohsiung, May 24 (CNA) The Coast Guard Administration busted a group of fisherman Thursday in southern Taiwan for cyanide fishing, and confiscated a total of 1,075 kilograms of the highly toxic chemical.
The five suspects were sent to Yunlin District Prosecutors' Office for violating the Fisheries Act and for fraudulently selling their catch, according to the administration.
A special coast guard task force in Chiayi County caught the suspects dividing their catch in Chiayi County's Dongshi Township and found 232 kg of fish at the location.
The raid was launched after the administration's Central Coastal Patrol Office received a tipoff from local residents that people were fishing with cyanide in the waters off Yunlin and Chiayi counties.
Coast guard personnel said the group would dump the poison into the ocean during high tide and then scoop up the unconscious fish. The group would then sell the fish to a broker surnamed Hsu, who in turn sold the fish to unaware consumers and fish vendors.
The group has been distributing poisonous fish since last December according to the group's order records, but it is difficult to determine how many poisonous fish have entered the market because the suspects have so far refused to divulge such information, the task force said.
To avoid purchasing poisonous fish, the public should not buy fish with sunken eyes or discolored bodies, the task force said.
In addition, cyanide has a slight almond scent, so the public should avoid purchasing fish that has such a smell, the task force added.
Cyanide is highly toxic and just 1 part per million of the chemical can poison an adult, officials said.
Symptoms of poisoning include dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting, skin rashes, and, in more serious cases, respiratory failure, seizures and even death, they added.
If 1,075 kg of cyanide was dumped into the sea, it would have claimed many human lives and killed off most of the marine life in the ocean off Yunlin and Chiayi, the administration said.
Cyanide, one of the most potent of all poisons, has been listed by the Environment Protection Administration since 1990 as a poisonous chemical, officials stated.
(By Chiang Chun-liang and C.J. Lin)