Taiwan to impose steep penalties for deep-sea fishing violations

Taiwan's deep-sea fishing ships will face steep penalties and have their fishing licenses revoked if they are caught fishing illegally after a statute cleared the Legislature Tuesday.

The statute governing deep-sea fishing stipulates 19 major violations, including engaging in deep-sea fishing without a license, not installing automatic location or fishing catch communicators, entering sea territories of other nations without prior approval, catching or selling banned fish species, falsifying fishing catch data, and averting or refusing to allow observers assigned by the authorities to board ships for inspection and verification.

According to the statute, violators can be punished under four different categories, based on the tonnage of their ships.

Vessels over 500 tons will be fined between NT$6 million (US$185,781) and NT$30 million, while those between 100 tons and 500 tons will be fined between NT$4 million and NT$20 million.

Ships between 50 tons and 100 tons will be fined between NT$2 million and NT$10 million, while those under 50 tons will be fined between NT$1 million and NT$5 million.

For repeat offenders, the fines will be raised to up to NT$45 million.

In addition to fines, the operators will have their fishing licenses recalled or revoked, while the fishermen's licenses to operate will also be recalled or revoked.

The law will be put into effect six months after its promulgation.

The passage of the law came against the background of a warning by the European Commission, which issued a yellow card last October and said that Taiwan risks being identified as an uncooperative country in the fight against "illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU)" fishing.

The warning followed a report by Greenpeace that a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Shuen De Ching No. 888, was seen illegally harvesting shark fins and throwing the finned sharks back into the water near Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific.

If the issue is not addressed by the end of March 2017, Taiwan will risk trade sanctions by the European Union.