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Rules placed by EU on Taiwan against IUU fishing unfair: fishermen

2018/04/22 20:02:39

Photo courtesy of Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰)

Taipei, April 22 (CNA) Local fishermen have alleged that the European Union (EU) has imposed unreasonable demands on Taiwan to protect its fishing industry as the country seeks to be removed from its warning list for illegal fishing.

Taiwan Tuna Longline Association Chairman Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰) told CNA that local fishermen have a grudge against the EU for demanding that Taiwan observe rules on distant water fisheries operators that are stricter than international standards.

The complaint came before the EU is expected to decide by the end of the month whether Taiwan has made adequate progress at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing since the European Commission in October 2015 issued Taiwan with a "yellow card" for its insufficient cooperation in the fight against IUU.

Last month, EU officials visited Taiwan to review the country's compliance with its requirements on improving regulations, regulatory enforcement and management of the country's distant water fishing industry, following a previous inspection trip in October 2017.

One of the examples Ho has argued against is the EU's demand that vessels should transmit data -- information that includes vessel position -- recorded in the vessel monitoring system (VMS) to fishery authorities every hour, regardless of whether purse seine or longline gear is being used.

According to international standards, transmission of VMS data for purse seine vessels should be every hour but every four hours for longline fishing vessels, Ho said.

The requirements that Taiwan be held responsible for IUU involving foreign-owned fishing vessels flying Taiwanese flags and that all uploading can only take place at designated ports are also unreasonable, Ho said.

Ho said he suspects that the EU is trying to impose the regulations to protect its fishing industry against competition from Asian fleets under the false pretense of environmental protection and sustainability of marine resources.

It is a misconception that Taiwan operates 1,200 longline fishing fleets and is the world's largest tuna producer, Ho said, adding that 700 of them are relatively small vessels of less than 100 tonnes.

The fishing capacity of these 700 vessels is nothing compared with the capacity of the commercial fishing vessels owned by countries in Europe and the Americas, he added.

If the EU decides to upgrade the warning to a "red card," it will entail a ban on Taiwanese fishery products to the EU, resulting in an estimated loss of between NT$50 billion (US$1.69 billion) and NT$60 billion, and unemployment in the fishing industry, according to the Fisheries Agency.

The agency said it will strengthen fishery governance, because international standards for distant water fishing operations will only become more rigorous, given that competition for limited marine resources is bound to intensify.

If the EU applies double standards to Taiwan, the Fisheries Agency will argue strongly for the rights of the local fishing industry, it said.

(By Yang Shu-min and Shih Hsiu-chuan)