My name is Yu Fen Kao, and I believe that here in Taiwan, the future of our oceans deserves a public debate.
As an oceans campaigner here, I am currently involved in a court case stemming from a peaceful protest conducted when the Rainbow Warrior was here in Taiwan earlier this year. In January, Greenpeace had informed the public and the authorities that a 3,431 ton flag of convenience refrigerated fish carrier ship was not yet registered to comply with the flag of convenience ordinance in Taiwan. The vessel, the MV Lung Yuin, was about 300 meter away from us onboard the Rainbow Warrior in port, and that would have been the perfect opportunity for the Taiwanese government to make good on its enforcement promises. As one of the world's largest fishing powers, Taiwan holds a huge responsibility to fish responsibly and create policies that will enable fishing industries to ensure healthy oceans and ample fish for future generations.
With the protest in January, we exposed management loopholes used by the Taiwanese Fisheries Agency to turn a blind eye to violations of simple ship registration laws. We identified over 235 flag of convenience vessels which should have registered with the government, but hadn't, and no action was taken against them. Lung Yuin is a flag of convenience vessel and it transports fish, which we believe meets the criteria of fishing activities described in the Taiwanese FOC regulation. This ship has a shady history of large scale illegal transshipments: in 2004, Lung Yuin's shady business was one of the reasons why Taiwan was forced to cut its tuna quota and vessel count. But Taiwan's Fisheries Agency kept saying that the Lung Yuin is just a cargo ship and does not need to register and so gave the Chang Soon Corp., Lung Yuin's owner, a chance to say that we have wrongly criticized them. And that is why I appeared in court last week.
The significance of this case is that it could force Taiwan's Fisheries Agency to fulfill their promise of supporting proper fisheries management to deliver sustainable Pacific tuna fisheries. Officials from the Fisheries Agency kept denying that there is an overfishing crisis impacting Pacific tuna and actively lobby against conservation measures at international meetings. Meanwhile, they can't even enforce the very law they created to have control over their vast fishing fleets.
Last week was my first appearance in court, accused of making wrong allegations against the owners of Long Yuin. There are still many flag of convenience vessels out there in the Pacific which are not properly registered and the fishery remains to a large degree poorly regulated meaning fish piracy is high. We hope that this case will be the beginning to let the Fisheries Agency know that Taiwan should do more to protect our oceans. Right now, Greenpeace's ship Esperanza is in the Pacific and confronting illegal fishing vessels. If fishing powers like Taiwan don't take action, we could eventually see the end of tuna populations as we know them - as we've already seen happen with Atlantic cod and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. Taiwan's fishing industry – among the largest in the world - is quite literally fishing itself out of existence. If we want healthy oceans, ample tuna and a fishing industry in the future, we need concrete steps from governments and more marine reserves to help our oceans recover from decades of destruction.
This case here in Taiwan has just begun and we will continue to tell the people who should be managing our oceans that they have to do their jobs - and manage them for the benefit of the billions of people around the world who need the oceans for food and jobs. After all, fishing industries, governments and most importantly ordinary people like you and me, all have a vested interest in our oceans. Sign here to add your voice to the movement for more marine reserves to rescue our oceans.
Yu Fen Kao is an oceans campaigner based in the Taipei office of Greenpeace East Asia.
Image © Paul Hilton