Defending Our Oceans Is Not a Crime in Taiwan

Press release - February 10, 2012
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 10 February 2012- Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner Yufen Kao received a not guilty verdict in Taiwanese court today, on charges of aggravated defamation brought by Taiwanese shipping company Chang Soon, owner of the Vanuatu-flagged fish carrier ship MV Lung Yuin. Greenpeace staged a peaceful protest against the vessel in January 2011 over its apparent failure to meet a registration requirement under Taiwanese laws (1) and its reported history of involvement in illegal activities in 2004. Greenpeace hailed the verdict as a step forward and urged the government to take a more progressive role in protecting the Pacific for the future of the region’s people and economy.

“We’re taking a positive message from the verdict, that oceans protection has won over pointless legal maneuvering meant only to silence dissent and advance the narrow agenda of Taiwan’s fishing industry agenda. The real crime here is the reckless plunder of our oceans; we will continue defending our oceans for everyone, including the fishing industry,” said Yu Fen Kao, Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner.

Greenpeace had questioned the vessel’s compliance with a legal requirement for Taiwanese-controlled fishing vessels flying a ‘flag of convenience’ (FOC) to register with the Fisheries Agency (2), a concern backed up by Hu Nien Tsu of the Marine Policy Research Center of National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan. Chang Soon had argued the registration requirement does not apply to fish carrier vessels, despite the fact that owners of similar vessels have registered their fish carriers to the FOC list.

Instead of investigating Greenpeace’s claims that the Lung Yuin lacked proper registration, charges of defamation were brought against Kao.  For years, the Fisheries Agency (FA) has not shown a real determination to enforce its own laws governing Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels, and has also failed to recognize the crisis facing our oceans due to overfishing and illegal fishing by Taiwan’s vast fishing fleet, supported by vessels such as Lung Yuin. The lack of action and direction from Taiwan comes as the global overfishing crisis deepens. In the Pacific, Taiwan’s main distant water fishing grounds, bigeye and yellowfin tuna are now in sharp decline and urgent action is needed to reverse this trend.

“The clear next step for Taiwan must be to change its policies and act to rescue Pacific tuna. If not, the Taiwanese fishing industry will not only fish tuna out, but will also fish itself out of existence,” added Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner.

Greenpeace is calling on Taiwan to support the attempts of the Pacific Island Countries to better manage the tuna populations, support the full closure of Pacific Commons (3) to all fishing, ban on the use of destructive Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries and reduce fishing mortality of bigeye tuna by 50%.

Globally, Greenpeace is campaigning for a network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health.


Media Contacts:

YuFen Kao, Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner +886 939 386 874

Renee Chou, Greenpeace East Asia communications officer +886 936 333 199

Steve Smith, Greenpeace International communications +66 819 298 707

Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, +31 655 125 480

 

 

Greenpeace International 24-hour media hotline +31 20 718 2470

 

Notes:

1. Under Article 4 of the Ordinance to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels, Taiwanese nationals who wish to engage in the business of fishery on the high seas with a foreign-flagged fishing vessel require prior authorisation from the Fisheries Agency. “Engagement in the business of fishery” is defined not only as fishing by fishing vessels, but also as trading, transporting, importing and exporting fisheries products. These activities are typically undertaken by carrier vessels such as the MV Lung Yuin. Under international fisheries treaties, carrier vessels generally fall under the definition of ‘fishing vessel’.

2. Earlier this year, Greenpeace discovered the MV Lung Yuin docked at Kaohsiung harbor without having registered under the Ordinance mentioned above. Greenpeace called for an investigation by the FA, which refused, saying the Lung Yuin was a carrier ship and therefore needed no registration. Greenpeace has been collecting and comparing fishing vessel registration data from regional fisheries management organisations and other sources since 2010, and found that aside from the 108 vessels registered with the FA, there were 235 Taiwanese-controlled FOC vessels unregistered. To date, the FA has not responded nor investigated these cases. As of now, 167 FOC vessels remain unregistered, including the MV Lung Yuin. In 2004, the MV Lung Yuin was found to be involved in extensive fish laundering by the Japanese government. As a result, Taiwan was ordered to reduce its quota of bigeye tuna by 70% and reduce the number of vessels it operates by the relevant fisheries management organisation, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).

3. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/marine-reserves/pacific-tuna-need-marine-reserves/