Tuna catch

Taiwan is the largest distant water fishing power in the Western and Central Pacific, where 60% of the world's tuna come from. However tuna populations in the region are facing an overfishing crisis. Among the four species of tuna fished in the area, three species are already on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Taiwan's distant water fishing relies heavily on fish resources in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), resulting in high gasoline costs. Thus Taiwan's distant water fishing industry faces some huge challenges ahead: the depletion of resources and fish, as well as high oil prices internationally. In order to resolve this, the Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan (行政院農業委員會漁業署) has spent taxpayers' money to subsidize the rising costs, in turn contributing to overfishing.

Greenpeace analyzed the budget of the distant water fishing industry from the Fisheries Agency from 2002 until now and has discovered:

Taiwan boats

The Fisheries Agency neglects the reality of resource depletion. It continues to use taxpayers' money to subsidize the distant water fishing industry, which makes it an accomplice in the destruction of tuna resources.

Tuna vessel

The Fisheries Agency had spent TWD 16 billion (over 382 million euro) on the distant water fishing industry in the period 2002 to 2010. Of the total, about 75% was used to increase the capacity of the fleet, including subsidization of gasoline for vessels and vessels buyback programs. The Fisheries Agency has yet to control the number of new fishing vessels, even though Taiwan is facing international pressure to reduce fishing capacity. All these lead to the increase of total tonnage of Taiwanese vessels in WCPO. Only less than 3% of the total budget was used to research and explore "possibly effective resources management".

Taiwanese fisherman

There are about 18,000 people, which accounts for 5% of Taiwan's population, involved in the distant water fishing industry. The majority of them are managers, not front line fishermen.

Fish market in Taiwan

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) contribution of the distant water fishing industry accounted for an annual 0.25% during the period of 2002 to 2009, which is about TWD 30 billion (over 717 million euro). Distant water fishing industry contributed 46% productive value for the whole fishing industry in Taiwan.

Greenpeace Recommendations:

The Fisheries Agency must deal with the issue of resources depletion when it sets the budget. With regard to the 75% of the budget spent on enhancing the output of the distant water fishing industry, we demand the Fisheries Agency evaluate whether the money poured into each item is being used wisely. The agency should consider sustainable development, both conceptually and practically.

In participating in international policy negotiations (such as Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, or RFMOs), the Fisheries Agency should proactively investigate and support global marine reserve proposals, in order to better fulfill its responsibility to protect the entire marine ecosystem. Its fisheries policies should be based on the precautionary principle. In regards to Taiwan's largest fishing ground the Western and Central Pacific, we demand the Fisheries Agency support for the following measures at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission:

  • Reducing 50% of tuna fishing effort in the Western and Central Pacific.
  • Closing the Pacific Commons, four high seas pockets in between national waters of Pacific Island Nations, for the restoration of tuna populations, the future of the Pacific Ocean and to halt illegal fishing and destructive overfishing.
  • Banning the use of artificial fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries.

Continue Reading: Net loss: How Taiwan subsidizes tuna depletion

Images © Paul Hilton

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