The authorities in Taiwan have handed down some heavy penalties on fishing vessels operators, one for significant violations of Work in Fishing Convention C188 and the other for catching large quantities of silky shark which is a prohibited species.
The case of fishing vessel Fuh Sheng No.11 represents a milestone as this was the first vessel found to have violated C188, with the investigation taking place in three locations. The initial investigation took place I June last year when Fuh Sheng No.11 was prevented form leaving Cape Town until deficiencies had been corrected. When it docked in Kaohsiung in September, a further investigation was carried out and with the assistance of an NGO, officers were able to interview former crew members in Indonesia.
Although there is no evidence that prohibited shark species had been retained on board Fuh Sheng No.11, it became clear that numbers of discarded prohibited shark species were not properly recorded on the electronic logbook. This resulted in a NT$1 million (€28,500) fine for the operator and a NT$200,000 (€5700) fine for the skipper.
The Fisheries Agency of Taiwan also established that minimum wage, labour contract and duty of care regulations were violated, in addition to witness testimony of violence used by the skipper and a Filipino officer against crew members.
Fines of NT$550,000 (€15,600) have been imposed on Fuh Sheng No.11’s operator for crew management offences, plus a five-month suspension of its fishing licence. In addition, the crewing agent concerned has been fined NT$2 million (€57,000) for failing to ensure contracts were in place between crew and operator.
The case has also been referred to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutor’s Office for investigation of possible violations of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.
Following the situation initially having been highlighted by an NGO, the Fisheries Agency also investigated fishing vessel Chin Chang No.6 for illegal retention of silky and oceanic whitetip sharks. Inspectors examined Chin Chang No.6’s catches when it was landed and identified 30 tonnes of silky and oceanic whitetip shark on board.
The vessel owner and skipper both admitted the offences and the Fisheries Agency has subsequently fined the operator NT$9.50 million (€270,000) and the skipper NT$1.90 million (€54,000), plus a six-month licence suspension.
According to a Fisheries Agency spokesman, the Taiwan Government has transposed relevant conservation and management measures adopted by international fisheries management organisations into its domestic law and regulations.
‘The level of penalties has been greatly increased, allowing the government to confiscate catches and fishing gears, in addition to imposing huge heavy fines and suspension/revocation of fishing licenses,’ the Agency stated.
‘The Fisheries Agency takes this opportunity to once again call on all of the distant water fisheries industry to comply with both the domestic and international rules and fulfil responsibility of self-management. Apart from tackling illegal fishing activities, the implementation of the Regulations on the Authorisation and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members, combating with human trafficking and the protection of crew members’ rights and benefits are core values of the Taiwan Government.’
‘The whole industry is being shamed by the illicit activities of a few operators. The Fisheries Agency will strengthen its efforts against those operators who disregard the rights and benefits of crew members, so as to ensure the protection of human rights and the sustainable development of the distant water fishing industry.’