Taiwan ship seized by Solomon Islands for alleged illegal fishing

Taipei, June 28 (CNA) A Taiwanese fishing ship was seized by the Solomon Islands in April for allegedly fishing illegally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed for the first time Tuesday after the incident was reported by local media.

Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said the Jing Man No. 666, registered in Liuqiu Township in Pingtung County, entered the port of Noro in the Solomon Islands on April 1 for maintenance and resupply. The ship was seized on April 3 when the Pacific island country's customs authorities found illegally harvested shark fins on the ship, and the case is now being handled by the country's prosecutors.

Wang said the Taiwanese captain, surnamed Hung , and 10 Indonesian crew members who were working on the ship are in good health and have freedom of movement. The case has now entered the judicial process, and Taiwan's embassy at the Solomon Islands will stay on top of the latest developments to provide assistance as necessary, Wang said.

In Pingtung County, Captain Hung's wife said the Solomon Islands will hand down a verdict on July 1. She said the ship has been seized for almost three months and has suffered substantial losses.

Huang Hung-yen, deputy director of the Fisheries Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, said that although the Taiwanese ship was seized for illegal fishing, it was an isolated case and will not have a direct impact on the EU's view of Taiwan's fishing sector.

The European Union (EU) issued a yellow card to Taiwan on Oct. 1, 2015 warning that it risks being identified as an uncooperative country in the fight against "illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU)" fishing and could issue a red card if the country's practices do not improve. The Foreign Ministry called on deep-sea fishing operators not to engage in illegal fishing to protect marine resources and uphold the long-term interests of Taiwan's deep-sea fishing industry.

The Liuqiu District Fishermen's Association said that if the Jing Man No. 666 has indeed illegally fished shark fins, it will face fines and disciplinary action from the Fisheries Agency after returning home even if it is fined by the Solomon Islands. Both the Liuqiu and Donggang fishermen's associations have urged the government to speed up the revision of the Fisheries Act, and impose steep fines on illegal operators to avoid getting hit by a red card from the EU.

The associations said that if the EU issues a red card, then not only will Taiwan's catches be barred from entering the EU market, Taiwanese fishing ships may also be prohibited from entering the harbors of other countries to be repaired, resupplied or maintained. (By Tai Ya-chen, Chen Cheng-wei, Kuo Chu-chen and Lilian Wu)