Facing a deadline to make changes to its fishing practices, Taiwan made several moves this week designed to ward off the looming threat of a damaging red card from the European Commission.
A bill increasing the penalties on Taiwan’s long-distance fleets that engage in illegal fishing has been introduced and is now up for ratification by that country’s legislature. Taiwan has also increased coordination with the government of the Philippines to crack down on illegal fishing in their shared exclusive economic zones, Focus Taiwan reported on Thursday, 17 March.
Taiwan was given a yellow card by the European Commission in October 2015, which gave the country until March 2017 to make reforms or face a red card. The issuance of a red card would result in a ban on imports to the EU of fish products caught by vessels flying the Taiwanese flag. Taiwan exports an estimated USD 14.5 million (EUR 13 million) in seafood annually to EU markets, but much more to U.S. markets, and the U.S. has in the past considered following the E.U.'s lead in issuing import restrictions on countries known to deal in IUU-tainted seafood.
According to the European Commission’s announcement in October 2015, the decision to issue a yellow card to Taiwan was “based on serious shortcomings in the fisheries legal framework, a system of sanctions that does not deter IUU fishing, and lack of effective monitoring, control and surveillance of the long-distance fleet. Furthermore Taiwan does not systematically comply with Regional Fisheries Management Organization obligations.”
The new legislation under consideration by Taiwan’s legislature would require all ships in its long-distance fishing fleets to install a vessel monitoring system and a system to report each vessel’s catch, Focus Taiwan reported. The system would be overseen by Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency. There are an estimated 20,000 fishing vessels in Taiwan’s fleet, with approximately 1,300 to 1,600 of those classified as long-distance fishing vessels, according to Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture.
The proposal would also stiffen penalties for illegal fishing, increasing the maximum fine from NTD 300,000 (USD 930, EUR 822) to NTD 30 million (USD 930,000, EUR 822,000), with the fine for repeat violations increasing to NTD 45 million (USD 1.4 million, EUR 1.2 million).
A draft of the bill was sent to the European Commission, which said it had “no problem with its contents,” according to Focus Taiwan.
Taiwan’s agreement with the Philippines will create a hotline between the two countries’ governments that will allow for better monitoring and enforcement of fishing rules in the overlapping waters in each country’s exclusive economic zone, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two countries also agreed to perform joint inspections of fishing boats suspected of illegal fishing and to exchange inspection reports.