Taiwan Tilapia Alliance head Tsai Chun-hsiung (center) and Chiayi Magistrate Chang Hwa-kuan (right) reassure quality of Taiwan's tilapia.
Taipei, Nov. 2 (CNA) Both Taiwan and South Korea have conducted rigorous checks of tilapia exported to South Korea, and it would be impossible for there to be substandard fish as portrayed by a South Korean TV news program, Taiwan's top fishery official said Saturday.
James Sha, director general of the Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture, said Taiwan regularly and randomly conducts checks on tilapia every year.
South Korean customs and health authorities conduct similar rigorous checks, with over 10 percent of the tilapia imported from Taiwan rejected and returned to the seller, and the situations described by the program do not exist, Sha said.
Sha said he supported having the Taiwan Tilapia Alliance file a lawsuit against the station in South Korea and step up a publicity drive there.
At issue is a show aired on South Korea's Channel A on Oct. 25 that cast Taiwan's tilapia manufacturing industry in a negative light.
The program said that tilapia, originally a sea fish, is bred in fresh water in Taiwan, and it described tilapia as being raised in a polluted environment in Taiwan. It also insinuated that Taiwan's tilapia farmers abuse antibiotics in raising the fish.
South Korean importers reportedly suspended imports of tilapia from Taiwan following the broadcast, seriously affecting sales of the fish and dealing a blow to local fish farmers.
Sha said Taiwan produces around 70,000 tons of tilapia annually, 60 percent of which is exported to the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
He said that South Korea is an important market for Taiwan's tilapia, mostly in the form of frozen fillets.
Tilapia exports to South Korea in the first nine months of 2013 amounted to 1,374 metric tons, translating to 4,122 metric tons of actual raw fish, which accounts for 13 percent of the country's total exports of 32,661 metric tons.
The Taiwan Tilapia Alliance, meanwhile, held a meeting Saturday to refute the reports of the South Korean program and ask for a correction.
Alliance head Tsai Chun-hsiung noted that the quality of Taiwanese tilapia is recognized around the world, noting that Seafood Watch, a U.S.-based advisory body, lists Taiwan's tilapia as a good product.
Also, 24 fish farms, including 12 tilapia farms in Taiwan, have won certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).
Among the conclusions reached at the meeting were that the COA should refute the malicious reports and issue a clarification to South Korean consumers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should demand an immediate clarification and open apology from Channel A.
The meeting also concluded that the Executive Yuan should invite representatives from the South Korean side to Taiwan to learn the truth and publish related inspection reports in their home country.
(By Lin Meng-ju, Yeh Tzu-kang and Lilian Wu)