Taiwanese fishing association denies claims of illegal fishing

March 20th was the last day that European Commission officials investget the improvement of Taiwan Tuna Longline Association. The FA and Taiwan Tuna Longline Association tried to fight for the removement of a yellow card. Greenpeace queried that 10 Taiwan-registered boats engaged in illegal fishing last year, saying that it has verified the legality of all the fishing boats named in the organization's investigation report. (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace via CNA, 2018.3.22)

Taipei, March 21 (CNA) The Taiwan Tuna Longline Association on Wednesday dismissed claims by environmental organization Greenpeace that 10 Taiwan-registered boats engaged in illegal fishing last year, saying that it has verified the legality of all the fishing boats named in the organization’s investigation report.

Greenpeace a day earlier alleged that 10 Taiwanese fishing boats were involved in illegal fishing sometime last year, just one day before European Commission officials currently in Taiwan to assess whether Taiwan’s fisheries management and far sea fishing practices have improved were scheduled to depart.

As the Fisheries Agency (FA) rushed to verify the information, the Taiwan Tuna Longline Association said it has already done so and found that all 10 boats were acting legally when they were fishing in the Indian Ocean last year.

Association Chairman Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰) expressed suspicion that Greenpeace purposely released the claims — based on an investigation that took place from February to May of last year — to coincide with the visit by the European Commission officials.

Ho said that the way Greenpeace has handled the whole situation has been inappropriate, from releasing the information so long after the investigation to only giving out the English names of the boats, which made it more difficult for the government to verify the claims.

He explained that Greenpeace knows the international maritime call signs of the boats, the release of which would have made it easier to verify the legality of their fishing activities, since their English names are sometimes misspelled.

Greenpeace, however, has denied the accusations, saying that the investigation was a global one, so it took time to comb through all the information, find the parts relevant to Taiwan, and verify the information for themselves.

Greenpeace also maintained that it communicates regularly with the European Union (EU), so it could inform the EU of any illegal activity at any point in time.

Ho nonetheless said that if Greenpeace really wanted to improve the management of Taiwan’s fishing industry, then it should have provided the government with the data as soon as it came out, as opposed to waiting until the officials from the European Commission arrived.

He called such tactics detrimental to Taiwan and its fishing industry, especially since Taiwan has been on the EU’s “yellow card” warning list for insufficient cooperation in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing since October 2015.

The officials, who arrived March 13, are expected to make a recommendation to the EU about whether to take Taiwan off the warning list and lift the yellow card after their fact-checking visit.

The yellow card is followed by a green card if issues identified are resolved, or potentially a red card if they are not. A red card could lead to a ban on Taiwan’s fishery products being exported to the EU, potentially resulting in estimated losses of NT$7 billion (US$243.6 million), according to the FA.

As of press time, the FA had been able to verify that five of the 10 boats in question were in fact fishing legally during the time of the investigation.

(By Yang Su-min and Kuan-lin Liu)