Taiwan’s fisheries plagued by human rights abuses and shark finning - Greenpeace investigation

Press release - April 14, 2016
A year-long Greenpeace East Asia investigation into Taiwan’s distant water tuna fisheries has exposed Illegal shark finning, labour and human rights abuses, as well as Taiwan’s failure to adequately address issues such as murder and drug smuggling at sea.

The findings released today in a Greenpeace East Asia report come as a yellow card warning from the European Commission is about to expire. Issued on 1 October 2015, Taiwan was given six months to clean up its fisheries or face economic sanction by the EU.

“These investigations paint a comprehensive picture of an industry in crisis,” says Yen Ning, Ocean Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. “Despite talking the talk, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency appears incapable of monitoring the out-of-control tuna industry. Whether through lack of capacity or otherwise, our investigations reveal devastating impacts on marine life and people’s lives.”

Globally, Taiwan owns the most tuna longline vessels, and Taiwan’s tuna take puts it in the top six Pacific fishing entities. Taiwanese companies, like seafood giant Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company, Ltd. (FCF), exports directly to markets and supply some of the world’s largest seafood companies, including Thailand’s troubled Thai Union Group. Large amounts of Taiwanese caught tuna are exported to Thailand for processing, where serious labour and human rights violations have been recently exposed. This not only risks further contamination of Taiwanese products, but can also contaminate exports from Thailand.

“The fishing industries of both Taiwan and Thailand have been shown to have human rights problems,” says Yen Ning. “The murky tuna supply chains of companies like Thai Union have little transparency, which means seafood lovers everywhere may be eating tuna tainted by human exploitation and environmental crime, and they’d never know.”

The Greenpeace East Asia report also reveals the abusive treatment of foreign crew. Interviews with South East Asian crew members revealed delayed and withheld payments, along with horrendous working conditions, exploitation by recruiting agents, verbal and serious physical abuse, and death at sea.

These human rights abuses seem to go hand-in-hand with environmental abuses. Fins are not allowed to be separated from shark carcasses under legislation Taiwan passed in 2012, but in a single three-month investigation in just one port in Taiwan, Greenpeace East Asia uncovered 16 illegal cases of shark finning. In contrast, an inquiry to Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency showed the same number of cases were recorded over the last 12 months, across the whole of Taiwan.

“The yellow card should be a wake up call for Taiwan to reform its fisheries, eliminate human exploitation and environmental abuse, and develop sustainable management of precious marine resources,” says Yen Ning on behalf of Greenpeace East Asia, “This isn’t just about trade, it’s about Taiwan’s responsibility to treat workers fairly and to contribute to the ongoing sustainability of our oceans.”

Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency has proposed a new distant waters fisheries act, which Greenpeace East Asia says will be meaningless without enforcement.

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