E.U. Lifts Warning Over Taiwan’s Illegal Fishing

Exploitation and Lawlessness: The Dark Side of Taiwan's Fishing Fleet from Environmental Justice Foundation on Vimeo.

Published Jun 30, 2019 3:49 AM by The Maritime Executive

The European Commission has announced that it will be lifting the “yellow card” warning it placed on Taiwan’s seafood industry for illegal fishing. 

The nation has taken steps to improve its legislation and has sanctioned several vessels. However, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) cautions that although important legislation has been passed, enforcement is now critical. EJF investigations continue to reveal widespread illegal fishing by Taiwan's distant water tuna fleet that does not comply with the new laws. 

“This shows clearly that better enforcement of the new legislation is crucial, using methods such as improved surveillance with onboard cameras and creating a fully transparent system where abuses can be easily detected and acted against,” the NGO says.

That the E.U. does not consider human rights issues as part of its carding decision is also critical. EJF has identified multiple cases of violent human rights abuses in the Taiwanese fishing fleet. Products from the Taiwanese fleet, caught on boats where crew are victim to abuses are still entering global seafood markets including the E.U. and U.S.

In 2018, crew aboard the Taiwanese vessel Fuh Sheng No 11 told EJF of beatings from the captain and being given only three hours to sleep. Salaries were below the Taiwanese minimum wage, and even then, deductions were made. One crew member reported that because of deductions he received a monthly salary of just $50 for the first five months.

After the investigation, the Fuh Sheng No. 11 was sanctioned, demonstrating that Taiwan is ready to put new measures into practice, but more is needed to ensure that these violations never happen in the first place, says the EJF.

An  investigation in late 2018 revealed that crew on a further five tuna longliners were being ordered to remove shark fins and throw the bodies overboard – a practice that is banned by Taiwan. Some of the vessels also illegally caught and killed dolphins, which are protected under Taiwanese law.

Taiwan has one of the largest deep water fishing industries in the world. According to the Taiwanese Fishery Agency, in 2016 it caught more than 820,000 tons. These products usually land in foreign countries, such as Thailand and Mauritius, and are then transported to local factories for processing before being re-exported to the final consumer markets.

Taiwan produces seafood exports worth about $150 million to the U.S. and $17 million to the E.U. Exports to Japan, a major market for the country, reach up to $475 million. In addition, tuna exports to Thailand, much of which are processed and then sent on to the U.S. and E.U., total $180 million.

According to data provided by the Fishery Agency and Ministry of Labor, in 2016 there were about 26,000 migrant workers working in the Taiwanese fishing industry. However, the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 cites estimates of up to 160,000 migrant workers in Taiwan fishing industry.

The total value of financial losses due to the related problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is estimated at between $10 billion and $23.5 billion every year.