The Fisheries Agency yesterday denied accusations that Taiwan is complicit in overfishing in the western and central Pacific Ocean, saying the building of fishing vessels is strictly controlled by the government and that all newly built fishing vessels are replacements of old boats.
Greenpeace said the agency agreed in 2008 to follow the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC) advice to limit the number of fishing days for its purse-seine tuna fleets in an effort to help Pacific tuna stocks recover from overfishing. However, it still allows the shipbuilding industry to build bigger ships with larger storage capacity, Greenpeace said.
It said the agency approved 22 new big purse seine ships between 2007 and this year, accumulating a total tonnage of 38,988 tonnes worth of new purse seines boats in five years — five times greater than the the tonnage of Japan, 14 times that of China and 38 times that of South Korea.
Banner in Kaohsiung (source). FTV video. Blog post of participant, with many pics.
Greenpeace's own press release stated:
Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency (FA) had agreed in 2008 to follow the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s advice to reduce fishing effort by limiting the number of fishing days for its purse-seine tuna fleets (1).Greenpeace has been tracking this issue for some time. Last year there was some media coverage of its report on how Taiwan's nearby waters are fished out. Notably:
Instead, the FA has sidestepped the regulation and is allowing its industry to build bigger ships with larger storage capacity, directly undermining efforts to rescue tuna populations.
Taiwan's Fisheries Agency approved 22 new big purse seine ships between 2007 to 2012. And the total new purse seine tonnage is 38,988 tons (3).
Taiwan's distant water fishing fleet mainly operates in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, home to more than 60 percent of the world's tuna. Taiwan has the most fishing vessels in the region – 72 purse seiners and 1,600 long liners (4). In addition, half of the US purse seiners are owned and operated by Taiwanese companies.
Greenpeace says that 75 percent of the nearly $388 million spent by the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to subsidize Taiwan's distant water fishing fleet from 2002 to 2010 was earmarked for "enhancing the fishing capacity."The subsidies explain why Taiwan's fishing fleet is so enormous. Seafood is the one area in which Taiwan is "self-sufficient" but this self-sufficiency is an illusion possible only because Taiwan continues to gain access to distant waters to fish. In fact, the massive harvest goes largely to exports to Europe, Japan, and the US.
Taiwanese boats operate all over the world. For example, this year a report on Somali waters observed that the still-plentiful tuna catch there supported large Taiwanese vessels hiring gunman from Sri Lanka to protect their boats. They sold the tuna at a profit in Japan because Japanese domestic regulations forbade hiring protection.
However, as Pacific Island papers have long reported, a (perhaps large) portion of the "Somali" catch is actually taken illegally in the EEZs of Pacific Island nations and then transferred to other boats in international waters, and reported as caught in Somalia. A report from a few years ago described this:
Japan says "fish laundering" was occurring on a wide scale. The tuna pirates meet shadowy cargo vessels on the high seas and transfer their catch. It is then taken to Japan where, depending on the state of quotas and placement of legal ships, the cargo ship declares the fish came from the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean. Mostly it has been illegally taken out of the South Pacific.The Somali "pirates" are in fact the ritual scapegoats for the real, serious, and destructive acts of piracy against small Pacific nations carried out by the major Asian fishing nations every day, piracy used as political theatre. Imagine if the US navy deployed its fleet to stop that smuggling, worth hundreds of millions, instead of piracy by Somali freelancers, worth hundreds of thousands.
Tokyo gave the example of Lung Yuin, a Taiwanese company-owned freezer cargo ship flying a Panamanian flag, carrying frozen bigeye tuna to Japan.
When authorities inspected it, they found that the tuna had been caught by 25 Taiwanese vessels and three Vanuatu flagged fishing boats owned by Taiwanese companies. All 28 boats had given false information about where they had caught the fish, while Lung Yuin had two log books-one true, the other false.
- Taiwan Fisheries Agency report on Taiwan Tuna and Tuna-like fishing. Good maps and much data, but knowing that paragraph about log books and tuna smuggling, how believable can it be?
- AmCham piece on Taiwan's fishing fleet. It notes, interestingly, that despite Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, its large fleet enjoys enormous prestige at international meetings.
- This academic paper on Japan, Taiwan, and tuna overfishing. Taiwan agreed to limit tuna sales to Japan but naturally these limits are exceeded....
- 2005 UK report on illegal fishing and smuggling
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