Taiwan Government rewards illegal shark fin operation with license to fish in Pacific

Press release - September 11, 2015
Taipei, 11 September 2015 – The Government of Taiwan has acquired a retrospective fishing license for a boat Greenpeace busted illegally fishing in the Pacific Ocean with hundreds of shark fins on board.

Two days ago Greenpeace activists came across the Taiwanese longliner Shuen De Ching No.888 fishing without authorisation in the high seas of the Pacific Ocean, close to Papua New Guinea's waters.

After confirming with the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that the Shuen De Ching No.888 did not have authorisation to fish in the region, Greenpeace requested permission to board.

The captain of the boat agreed, and once on board, Greenpeace activists discovered sacks containing 75 kilograms of shark fins from at least 42 sharks.  

Under Taiwanese law and Pacific fishing rules, shark fins may not exceed 5% of the weight of the shark catch, and with only three shark carcasses reported in the log book, the vessel was in clear violation of both.

Greenpeace East Asia immediately reported the serious pirate operation to government body the Taiwan Fisheries Agency (TFA). Instead of responding, the TFA appear to have used the information Greenpeace provided to retrospectively legalise the vessel and backdate the license to April.

Greenpeace East Asia is now protesting in front of the headquarters of the TFA in Taipei, in response to the Taiwanese Government effectively rewarding an illegal fishing operation. It has hung a large banner reading “out of control”, and is demanding the Fisheries Agency admit their failure in managing distant water fishing activities, and their role in covering up illegal fishing.

Frances Lo, Greenpeace East Asia Taipei office campaigner, says Greenpeace has comprehensive documentation of the case of Shuen De Ching No.888 and authorities must take action.

“The Taiwan Fisheries Agency ignored Greenpeace’s constructive effort and support. Instead, they chose to protect the vessel and cover up its illegal fishing. This will seriously affect Taiwan’s international reputation, and it could lead to international sanctions,” she says.

“We demand that the government orders this illegal vessel to stop fishing and return to port immediately for a full and transparent investigation. There is a Taiwanese patrol boat in the region and this is exactly the sort of illegal activity they should be tackling.”

Although the TFA has said it will follow up on the vessel’s illegal shark fining operation, Lo says the reality is it may use the investigation to further delay and cover up the problem.

The Shuen De Ching No.888 case is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to Taiwan’s fisheries management problems, she says.

“Changing the FA’s attitude of avoiding responsibility to one of actively and transparently investigating illegal distant water fisheries, is the only way to solve these problems and rebuild the trust from the public.”

Greenpeace will continue to follow the investigation.

The East Asia office has issued a series of demands that include the immediate suspension of Shuen De Ching No.888’s fishing license, a prosecution, and a full and transparent investigation by Taiwan Fisheries Agency.

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Images available for download here http://photo.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MZIFJ6AWAWA

For more information, go to http://tuna.greenpeace.org