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Taiwan warned to improve fishing practices or face sanctions

2015/10/26 23:01:23

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) Taiwan has to improve its fishing practices and eliminate illegal behavior or face trade sanctions from the European Union, environmental group Greenpeace warned Monday.

Greenpeace reported in early September that a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Shuen De Ching (順得慶) No. 888, was illegally harvesting shark fins and throwing the bodies of the sharks into the sea near Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific.

The European Commission issued a yellow card to Taiwan on Oct. 1, warning it risked being identified as an uncooperative country in the fight against "illegal, unreported and unregulated" (IUU) fishing.

Greenpeace said Taiwan's Fisheries Agency sent officials to check on the Shuen De Ching after the ship's return to Taiwan and found that it had falsely recorded its fish catch, cut fins off sharks and thrown their bodies into the sea, and violated the ban on fishing for black sharks.

But the Fisheries Agency's count of the ship's catch was far short of Greenpeace's, indicating that it was not capable of plugging management loopholes in the industry.

That raises doubts that the agency will be able to solve the yellow card problem within six months, Greenpeace said, and if Taiwan cannot make improvements within that time frame, the European Union could impose trade sanctions on seafood from Taiwan.

Based on its annual fish exports to the EU, Taiwan stands to lose about NT$520 million (US$16.1 million) a year, it said.

Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said the captain of the Taiwanese fishing ship admitted that it transported a catch in early September, but an investigation by the Fisheries Agency had found nothing and it ended up saying that the ship only made a false report.

The agency fined the ship NT$150,000 and its catch was confiscated, a punishment Yen argued was too lenient.

Yen stressed that reforming Taiwan's deep-sea fishing system is urgent, noting that if Taiwan does not improve within six months, it will face trade sanctions, seriously affecting Taiwan's international profile and diplomatic ties.

She cited as examples South Korea and the Philippines, which revised their laws and stepped up regulations after being issued yellow cards.

South Korea now imposes fines of up to NT$28 million for illegal fishing, and the Philippines raised its fines to NT$31.5 million, in contrast with Taiwan's fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$300,000, Yen said.

(By Chen Cheng-wei and Lilian Wu)