Taiwanese fishing boat fined for illegal shark catch

About 30 tons of the fish were discovered on the Chin Chang No. 6 fishing vessel, the largest haul of the species ever found since the Act for Distant Water Fisheries was implemented Jan. 20, 2017

Taipei, Oct. 4(CNA)-A Taiwanese fishing vessel found to have caught large numbers of prohibited shark species has been fined NT$11.4 million (US$367,194) to deter a practice that seriously undermines the nation’s fishing industry, a Fisheries Agency (FA) official said Thursday.

FA officials launched an inspection into Chin Chang No.6 (金昌6號), which had been in waters east of Papua New Guinea since June, after it arrived in Siaogang Fishing Harbor in Kaohsiung on Sept. 13, Wang Mao-chen (王茂城), deputy head of the FA Deep Sea Fisheries Division, said at a press conference.

The inspection discovered over 30 metric tons of silky sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks, both endangered and prohibited species, in the vessel’s hold, Wang said, adding that the illegal catch was confiscated and destroyed.

Both the vessel’s owner and captain have confessed to violating the rules prohibiting catching species under the Act Governing Distant Water Fisheries, he said.

The FA has fined the vessel’s owner NT$9.5 million and suspended his fishing license for six months, while the captain was fined NT$1.9 million and his license suspended for six months, Wang said.

According to Wang, the FA had been observing Chin Chang No.6 for some time before it returned on Sept. 13 because its 24-hour Fisheries Monitoring Center had identified suspicious activities in which the vessel was engaged and received a tip-off about its involvement in illegal fishing practices.

Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) touted the raid of Chin Chang No.6 as an example of the government’s determination to stamp out illegal fishing activities and promote the sustainable use of fisheries resources.

The European Union (EU) placed Taiwan on its watch list for insufficient cooperation in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in October 2015. Since then, EU officials have visited the country every six months to examine how related issues are being addressed.

EU officials are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan on Oct. 8 for the next inspection, which could determine whether the yellow card imposed on Taiwan is lifted, according to Wang.

However, the EU can issue a red card if problematic issues are not resolved, which could lead to a ban on Taiwan’s fishery products being exported to the EU, potentially resulting in an estimated NT$7 billion per year in losses, the COA said earlier this year.