Hello from Taiwan! Below is the English translation of Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s response to Greenpeace’s protest which exposed a Flag of Convenience (FOC) fish carrier Lung Yuin in Kaoshiung port that is breaching Taiwan’s laws. Instead of acting and investigating, the FA has responded to Greenpeace with lies and wrong facts. The FA claims are in italics below
"FA reiterates legal compliance with management of Taiwanese-owned fishing vessels flying foreign flags of convenience (FOC). Taiwan nationals operating reefers flying foreign flags currently do not need to register. In response to Greenpeace's 23 January press release "Suspected illegal reefer Lung Yuin exposed, FA unable to efficiently manage high seas fishery," FA explains that Lung Yuin reefer is registered in Panama"
It appears the Taiwan Fisheries Agency has not done one minute of investigation into this FOC vessel, or it would have noticed that the vessel no longer flies the flag of Panama. Photo evidence leads us to believe that the flag onboard is the flag of Vanuatu. Oops, has the Taiwan FA been exposed for not knowing how to use the standard Lloyd's Sea-web database? According the database, the vessel’s flagging changed from Panama in August 2010. Greenpeace has since communicated with Vanuatu and requested that the government de-flag the vessel.
"and is invested and operated by Taiwanese foreign business vessel. According to Taiwanese law, those investing in and operating foreign fishing vessels in outer oceans engaged in industrial fishing shall in accordance with“Regulations on the Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels by Taiwan Nationals register with the FA and provide inspection documents issued by registration country such as Company registry, vessel registry, fishing license and the documents on operating in the fishing area, fishing zone, or fishing period, and with the fishing gear and fishing method. The above regulation is applicable to fishing vessels directly involved in fish capture operations (e.g. longliners, purse seine or squid fishing vessels); foreign transport vessels (reefers) invested and operated by Taiwan nationals currently do not need registration with FA for approval."
This statement is simply wrong and a feeble excuse for not doing their job. Greenpeace has a copy of the legislation and it states the following:
According to Article 4, read together with Article 3(3), the registration requirement applies in cases of "engagement in the business of fishing by fishing vessels, trading, transporting and import and export of fishery products." In short, it applies in the first place to fishing by fishing vessels, but in addition to support activities such as trading and transporting. These are typically undertaken by reefers such as Lung Yuin.
The claim that the ship currently does not need to register is simply a new interpretation of the regulation by the FA. This is strange, since the registry list given to Greenpeace in June 2010 has two vessels just like the Lung Yuin as registered (Yung Da Fa 101 and 102). If they do not need to register, then why had the Taiwan FA accepted these ships’ registrations in the first place?
In addition, Professor Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu, head of oceans policy at the Taiwanese National Sun Yat-sen University research centre has also confirmed Greenpeace’s view on the scope of the legislation in an opinion piece in a Taiwanese newspaper yesterday. This is consistent with international law, where “fishing activities” are generally accepted to include the supporting activities conducted by vessels like Lung Yuin. As an example, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) defines “fishing vessel” in Article 1 of its convention as follows:
"“fishing vessel” means any vessel used or intended for use for the purpose of fishing, including support ships, carrier vessels and any other vessel directly involved in such fishing operations” Lung Yuin foreign-registered reefer already declared according to regulations fish catch transferred from Taiwanese fishing vessels FA explains, all tuna and swordfish/marlin trasshipped within the area of RFMO, reefers ought to report and register in advance with RFMO. Before the transshipment, ought to notify the secretary office of related organization(s?) and regional seas observers, after which can begin high seas transshipment, and after fishished ought to report transshipped quantity. After investigation, Lung Yuin is a registered reefer with the WCPFC (WCPFC) and IATTC (IATTC), and its transshipment of fish catch from Taiwanese vessels is with prior permission in accordance with the “regulation on transshipment of distant water tuna longliner and catch carrier operating in three Oceans” created by the FA."
Again, Greenpeace and a large part of the international community hold that transshipments taking place at sea without the watchful eye of the authorities are the most significant loopholes that enable the laundering of illegal fish catches. Evidence shows time and time again that the long-line fleets of Taiwan and other countries fish in international waters or in the national waters of developing coastal states with limited monitoring capacity, without onboard observers simply cannot be trusted to fish legally. Just this week, two long-liners were intercepted in the waters of Solomon Islands for suspected IUU (illegal, unregulated, unreported) fishing of which at least one is confirmed to be Taiwanese.
These are the kinds of vessels the Long Yuin meets at sea, collects their tuna and the notifications these vessels provide to authorities do next to nothing to actually monitor catches, one of the most serious problems in the fishing industry. Taiwan and other Asian fishing powers continue to oppose the ban on at-sea transshipments. It is clear their interests lie in facilitating pirate fishing and maximizing the profits of the shady tuna industry rather than ensuring long term sustainable fisheries- a key food source for millions- and profits of the legitimate fishing industry. Greenpeace wants to see real action from Taiwan and other pishing powers in tackling these issues. We can begin to have control over the Pacific waters by agreeing to ban transshipments at sea and to close the Pacific high seas pockets where pirate fishing is known to be rampant and that vessels use to disguise catches taken illegally in the national waters of Pacific Island Countries.
"FA supports nurturing resources and fisheries management under international structure. As for GP's request that FA support international ocean conservation measures, FA emphasizes that achieving sustainable fisheries, implementing effective management and abiding by international fisheries measures are already commonly accepted values. In 2010, during the ICCAT (ICCAT) annual meeting, the fisheries management of only 5 out of 52 participants (including members and non-member partners)--of which Taiwan is one--were not singled out for affirmation or concern, thus indicating international recognition of Taiwan's fishery management. FA supports logical, scientifically-supported conservation measures. Greenpeace advocates closing high seas pockets, reducing catch by 50%, and banning fish-aggregating devices, which were brought up for discussion in WCPFC's 7th annual meeting in 2010. Opinions were divided, and more in-depth research of scientific basis necessary, thus these measures were not passed and a decision made to create a committee at a later date for discussion, to be brought up in 2011's WCPFC annual meeting when Taiwan will be present for discussion."
The history of international fisheries and tuna management by the Regional Fisheries Management Organsations such as ICCAT and WCPFC leaves much to be hoped for. Decisions are made by consensus and the lowest common denominator approach is the norm. Fishing interests argue year after year that there isn’t enough scientific information on the table and delay the adoption of much needed measures to rescue the region’s declining bigeye and yellowfin tuna populations. This year, the Pacific Island Countries put forward strong proposals to help save the tuna, but they were shot down and no new measures to address the tuna decline were adopted. Instead of requesting more science, Taiwan needs to embrace the precautionary approach mandated by intentional law and act for the benefit of our oceans, the tuna and the people dependent on them, even in the face of uncertainties. We can no longer afford to play roulette with our oceans, we need marine reserves, and a precautionary and ecosystem based management now. The best ways to do this would be to institute a 50% reduction in fishing effort, banning the use of wasteful Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) in purse seine fishing and the creation of marine reserves in the Pacific would go a long-way. Greenpeace is looking forward to Taiwan’s confirmation of support to these measures.
Crew and activists from the Rainbow Warrior gather at the FA headquarters in Kaohsiung to deliver two flags, one Panama and one of Vanuatu to the FA. A symbolic gesture to show lack of investigation into the case as the FA has stated even the flag state of the vessel wrong and to confront the FAs lies that it does not need to regulate reefer vessels under it FOC law.
Sari Tolvanen is an oceans campaigner based at Greenpeace International's headquarters in Amsterdam. She is currently onboard the Rainbow Warrior, leading the Greenpeace Ocean Defenders East Asia Tour