Rules to improve migrant fishermen’s conditions take effect in 2017

Rules to improve migrant fishermen's conditions take effect in 2017

Stricter rules and potential fines under a new law aimed at preventing overfishing and protecting migrant crewmembers who work far at sea with little oversight is going to take effect on Jan. 15, 2017.

The Distant Water Fisheries Act comes amid growing pressure on Taiwan's seafood industry to crack down on modern-day slavery as abuses of migrant workers hired for Taiwanese vessels are often reported.

The European Union gave Taiwan a "yellow card" warning last year for failing to control illegal fishing on its commercial vessels, as it found a Taiwanese fishing vessel violating shark fining regulations in international waters. The European Commission threatened to issue a “red card,” which could prompt an EU embargo on Taiwanese seafood exports, which would seriously damage the country’s fishing industry.

The government has since made an effort to work with the legislature to draft a bill governing the nation’s distant water fisheries. The legislature passed the Act Governing Distant Water Fisheries as well as amendments to the Fisheries Act and the Ordinance to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels in July, and the legislation will take effect on Jan. 15, 2017, tightening regulations and raising the fines for illegal fishing, “fish laundering” and other significant violations.

The Act Governing Distant Water Fisheries lists 19 activities as “major violations,” and business operators or employees who perpetrate any of the major violations would be severely fined up to NT$30 million and their fishing permits would be revoked for up to two years. The fines are categorized in proportion to the size of the boat in question. The new law will also require that foreign crew be hired through registered agents with contracts that specify the workers' rights.