THE EU CONCERNS: The protesters marched from the Council of Agriculture to the Legislative Yuan, demanding that the government retract the ‘irrational’ regulations
By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter
About 2,800 fishers from Pingtung and Yilan counties yesterday marched in Taipei to protest against stricter regulations, while civic groups called on the government not to loosen regulations barring illegal fishing activities.
Since Taiwan was given a “yellow card” about illegal, unreported and unregulated （IUU） fishing activities by the EU in October 2015, the Council of Agriculture has been trying to get the nation removed from the list by tightening regulations.
Since January last year, when the Act Governing Distant Water Fisheries （遠洋漁業條例）, the Act to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels （投資經營非我國籍漁船管理條例） and amendments to the Fisheries Act （漁業法） took effect, the council has issued fines of more than NT$120 million （US$3.9 million） as of Oct. 25.
The protesters marched from the council building to the Legislative Yuan, demanding that the government retract the “irrational” regulations, pass legislation to specifically govern fishers’ labor standards and increase maritime patrols in the nation’s exclusive economic zones.
It was the largest-ever protest by local fishers, who cannot but take to the streets because they have no other way to oppose the government’s oppression, said Wang Hsin-chan （王新展）, director of a self-help group of fishers from Donggang.
Due to the government’s failure to protect the nation’s exclusive economic zones, local fishers can hardly work in waters near Parece Vela （沖之鳥, known as the Okinotori Islands in Japan）, Itu Aba Island （Taiping Island, 太平島） and the Pratas Islands （Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島）, Siaoliouciou Fishers’ Union chairman Tsai Pao-hsing （蔡寶興） said.
Regarding the council’s plan to include fishers’ working regulations in the Labor Standards Act （勞動基準法）, Tsai said the move is unfeasible, as the working conditions of distant-water fishers are different from those of regular workers.
Fisheries Agency Deputy Director Lin Kuo-ping （林國平） told reporters that the agency would discuss with the Ministry of Labor and fishers’ groups to see if distant-water fishers could be covered by Article 84-1 of the act, which governs flexible working hours.
Other regulations are not likely to be loosened, as they follow international standards, Lin said.
A coalition of migrant worker advocate groups, including Greenpeace Taiwan, the Taiwan International Workers’ Association and the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation’s Taiwan branch, yesterday issued a joint statement urging the government to keep cracking down on illegal fishing activities.
While the government’s implementation of the law has some room for improvement, it should not cave in to pressure or loosen the regulations, otherwise the nation might be given a “red card” by the EU, they said.
More than 2,000 distant water fishers from across Taiwan gathered yesterday in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to protest an increase in Council of Agriculture fines following amendments to the Act for Distant Water Fisheries and two other major fisheries laws. Photo: CNA