Taiwanese fleets accused of illegal fishing, human rights abuses

Taipei An international non-governmental organization based in the United Kingdom said in report released Wednesday that there is a prevalence of human rights abuses and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on 62 fishing vessels linked to Taiwan.

In the report, the non-profit Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) said those unlawful practices remain widespread on Taiwanese distant waters fishing (DWF) fleets, even though the country was removed from the European Union’s illegal fishery watch list last June.

Specifically, illegal shark finning was reported on half of the 62 vessels, which were either owned by Taiwanese or registered in Taiwan, the report said, citing an EJF survey conducted among the boat crews August 2018 to November 2019.

On 14 of the boats, the crews reported intentional killing or illegal capture of protected marine mammals, including false killer whales and dolphins, the foundation said.

On human rights issues, withholding of wages was reported on 92 percent of the boats, while other issues included excessive overtime, and physical and verbal abuse, the EJF report said.

At a press conference at which the report was released, Chiu Shao-chi (邱劭琪), ocean campaigner at the EJF office in Taiwan, said those practices are enabled by Taiwan’s confusing legal system and lax enforcement of laws.

“DWF fleet operation in Taiwan is supervised by the Fisheries Agency instead of the Ministry of Labor, which creates legal loopholes,” she said.

Other non-governmental groups that were also at the press conference, including the East Asia branch of the international environmental organization Greenpeace, said they agreed with Chiu’s views, and they called for the deployment of more fishery inspectors with the language ability to privately interview migrant fishing crews.

A comprehensive monitoring system is also needed onboard Taiwan fishing vessels, they said.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Agency said prosecutors are looking into the case of an Indonesian fisherman who said he was locked in a freezer by his boat captain and subjected to electric shocks in punishment for minor mistakes.

Other alleged cases of abuse lack basic information such as names and dates, as the EJF has declined to provide that information on grounds that it is protecting the alleged victims, the agency said.

Over the past three years, the Fisheries Agency each year has investigated some 400 allegations of unlawful practices on Taiwan’s DWF fleets and has brought 12 cases to justice, according to the agency’s Deputy Director General Lin Kuo-ping (林國平).

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

 

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