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Illegal fishing by Taiwanese fleets rife

Saturday 16 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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PACIFIC – Illegal fishing by Taiwanese fleets remains widespread and appears linked to labour and human rights abuses at sea, a new Greenpeace report says.

The report by Greenpeace East Asia found a culture of indifference was allowing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of tuna and sharks to continue despite international pressure on Taiwan to clean up its fisheries industry.

The European Commission issued a yellow card to Taiwan in October for failing to monitor illegal fishing activities in the Pacific and other oceans.

Taiwan was given six months to address the “serious shortcomings” in its fisheries management and legal framework or risk a red card blacklisting, which would mean a ban on fish products reaching EU markets.

Last month Taiwan’s government passed a draft bill and revisions to raise the maximum fine for illegal fishing activities in a bid to bring its policies in line with international law.

But Greenpeace said it had evidence that Taiwanese companies were still breaking the rules, “confident that negligible penalties will rarely be imposed”.

Sixteen cases involving illegal shark-finning were uncovered during a three-month investigation at a single port, the report said.

In contrast, an inquiry by “Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency showed just 15 cases were identified over the last 12 months, across the whole of Taiwan”, it said.

Greenpeace said proposed changes to legislation were meaningless without enforcement.

“After the EU issued a yellow card to Taiwan, the Taiwan Fisheries Agency drafted out this Fisheries Act, but from this report we want to highlight the gap between regulation and enforcement,” Oceans campaigner Yen Ning told the ABC.

“If there is not enough resources put in to the implementation and action plan, the Act or the regulation will become meaningless, just like in the case we discovered.”

According to Greenpeace, a separate 12-month investigation at ports in Taiwan and Fiji revealed “widespread and persistent” labour and rights abuses, often accompanied by IUU fishing.

“Interviews with South-East Asian crew members reveal delayed and withheld payments, along with horrendous working conditions, exploitation by recruiting agents, verbal and serious physical abuse, and death at sea,” the report said.

The Australian who heads Pacific fishery management warns tuna stocks are facing disaster, Dominique Schwartz reports.

One Indonesian, a 37-year-old fishermen named CK, recounted how his friend was shot by his captain on a Taiwanese longliner while in Panama waters in 2009.

“When we reported it to the police, they said there was no evidence. All the evidence had just disappeared. I heard of or saw about 30 seafarers die since I had worked at this place,” CK said.

As well as experiencing violence, fishers described regularly not being paid for work or having their pay heavily reduced by exorbitant fees.

“I was signed as overseas employment and worked in a tuna/shark longliner from 2006 to 2008. I worked 17 hours per day in average,” another Indonesian worker, 34, said.

“I stayed at the vessel for one year on my first time on board. My salary was $160 per month.”

- ABC