Taipei, March 8 (CNA) Leaders in Taiwan's fishing industry on Tuesday called on the government to stand up to the people who make the international fishing rules, which they said are usually unfair to the local industry.
The heads of Taiwan's tuna and squid fishing associations said that if the government goes ahead with its plan to impose fines of up to NT$30 million (US$915,000) on their members, it will bankrupt them and they will stage a protest at the Legislature.
After four rounds of meeting with the European Commission, the Council of Agriculture (COA) has drafted new legislation that includes a provision for hefty fines, and plans to send the bill to the Legislative Yuan in late March.
The COA bill drafted was in response to the EU's warning to Taiwan last October that it risked being listed as uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The EU's decision to issue a "yellow card" to Taiwan was based on serious shortcomings in the country's fisheries legal framework, a system of sanctions that does not deter IUU fishing, and lack of effective monitoring, control and surveillance of long-distance fishing fleets, according to an EU press release.
The EU also said Taiwan had failed systematically to meet the obligations of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).
But Taiwan Tuna Association President Hsieh Wen-jung (謝文榮) said Taiwanese fishing vessels are being singled out for penalties.
"Japan is a deep-sea fishing country like us," he said. "Doesn't it still kill dolphins and catch whales in international waters?"
Hsieh said he and other fishery associations will call a press conference at the Legislature and protest the "double standards," which he said are "unfair" to Taiwan.
His views were echoed by Taiwan Squid Fishery Association President Lei Tzu-kang (雷祖綱), who said he will join the protest because a NT$30,000 fine was "way too high."
The Philippines was also issued a warning by the EU but responded by hiring over 1,000 observers to monitor their fishing boats in international waters, Lei said.
He said he suspected the COA had adopted the strategy used by South Korea, which increased its fines on its fishermen in exchange for removal from the EU's warning list.
"The government should be able to communicate with foreign institutions and fight for the interests of Taiwan's fishing industry, instead of following the South Korean government," Lei said. "Show some backbone, please."
Hsieh of the tuna association said he understood the pressure the government was facing, because he himself had participated annually in five or six international meetings on fishing regulations.
"Still, I must point out that organizations like the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and Inter-America Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) are dominated by white people who do not see any conservation problems with catching fish that are their favorites, like skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna, but have a lot to say about the favorites of the yellow people," he said.
"It's a classic case of double standards, which is very unfair to us," Hsieh added.
Lei, meanwhile, said another "unfair rule" is that Americans, who invented the purse seine, are granted much bigger fishing quotas than small countries like Taiwan.
Although more Asian interests are joining the international fishing commissions, Hsieh said, Taiwan's role in the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) is still limited and its saury quota might be skewed, given that the NPFC is headed by Japanese and Koreans.
He called on the Taiwan government to take advantage of the country's role in the Western Pacific and negotiate better deals for its fishing industry, as Japan and the U.S. step up their cooperation for a new "Pivot to Asia" policy.
Lei said local fishing industry operators also need to update their knowledge about the latest developments worldwide.
"The government can help with their education," he said.