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Taiwanese Government Responds to Human Rights at Sea Fisheries Report

Credit: HRAS
Credit: HRAS

By The Maritime Executive 03-14-2020 04:35:00

The Taiwanese government has responded to a report produced U.K.-based charity Human Rights at Sea on awareness of human rights in Taiwan's fishing industry.

The initial baseline report was issue in October 2019 as a consequence of the charity receiving information alleging abuses occurring within the Taiwanese fishing fleet and associated supply chain, which were investigated in-country by a Taiwanese national and researcher acting on behalf of Human Rights at Sea.

The publication titled Awareness and Application of Human Rights in Taiwan’s Fishing Industry highlights cases where accommodation space is extremely small, difficult to enter and with little ventilation. Poor sanitation was reported on board some vessels, including a lack of toilet facilities in some cases. 

The publication made a number of recommendations for the Taiwanese government:

• Strengthen international collaboration and learn from other countries’ experience to accelerate the process of extending human rights protections at sea.
• Strengthen implementation of the existing laws, policies and instruments in respect of human rights protections for national and migrant fishermen in the maritime sector.
• Abolish the Overseas Employment Scheme and ensure that all migrant fishermen, whatever their State origin, are protected by Taiwanese Labour Law when employed in maritime roles.
• Return labor and recruitment agency management responsibilities from the Fisheries Agencies to the Ministry of Labour.
• Safeguard and provide necessary training for migrant fishermen prior to work.
• Embed the philosophy and State-led narrative of “human rights at sea” in the national agenda.

The response from the Director General of the Taiwan Fisheries Agency includes notification that the Agency has amended its permitting process to ensure that vessels built after June 10, 2020, will conform to the ILO-C188 Work in Fishing Convention on accommodation space. With reference to the regulation in ILO-C188 requiring “no fees or other charges for recruitment or placement of fishers be borne directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by the fisher,” the Agency amended national regulations on March 20, 2019.

According to current regulations, every fishing vessel must be equipped with sufficient life jackets for the number of people onboard. In general, life jackets are stored in cabins, but the Agency states it will strengthen its policy advocacy, requesting that vessel operators and masters store life jackets in places more easily accessible.

The agency is also planning to establish a service center for crew members in Kaohsiung Qianzhen Fishing Port and is working with the Yilan County Government to transform an inland detention center for fishing crews from China in Nanfang’ao into a hostel offering cheap accommodation for foreign crew. 

In relation to human rights, the Agency says: “The Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee, the Human Rights Promotion Task Force of the Executive Yuan and the Coordination Conference for Human Trafficking Prevention have been inviting relevant ministries and agencies to convene meeting regularly. Relevant issues being addressed in such meetings have already embraced the philosophy of human rights at sea.”