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Fisheries Agency responds to film about migrant abuse on Taiwan's fishing vessels

The Agency released a statement March 16, in response to allegations from the Environmental Justice Foundation

File photo: Workers on board a Taiwanese  flagged fishing vessel, Oct. 2013

File photo: Workers on board a Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel, Oct. 2013 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan News recently reported on the release of a mini-documentary by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) discussing abuses faced by migrant workers on Taiwan’s fleet of deep sea fishing vessels.

On Friday, March 16, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency released on official press release in response to the criticisms leveled by the Environmental Justice Foundation stating that Taiwan has continued to make every effort in recent years protect the rights and benefits of migrant fisherman working on fishing vessels flagged under Taiwan’s authority.

The film “Exploitation and Lawlessness: the Dark Side of Taiwan's Fishing Fleet” was released in early March and alleges illegal practices and human rights violations occurring in Taiwan's fishing industries.

In response the Fisheries agency states that there are already comprehensive regulations in place that fishing vessels and their owner companies must abide by in regards to employing foreign workers and receiving the proper permits to engage in deep sea fishing.

If any company is found to be in violation of the regulations, they will be subject to punishment, says the press release. There is also reportedly a bond system in place, in which companies must submit a guarantee bond according to the number of crew on the ship, and the release suggests that the bond is only returned when a ship has satisfactorily completed its time at sea with no complaints or reports of violating any regulations.

The press release also states that the appropriate channels for filing complaints regarding distant water fishing vessels have been established for some time, and migrant workers who are under duress or being treated unfairly ( or acquaintances) are encouraged to report any abuse or illegal activity to the Fisheries Agency.

Migrant workers can dial 1955 for domestic calls,or+886-2-8073-3141 for international calls, to report any such activity.

Since 2017, the Agency has enhanced its inspection system to further reduce the instances of human trafficking occurring on Taiwanese flagged vessels, introducing much more severe penalties as well for those found to be in contravention of the "Human Trafficking Prevention Act.”

As for the claims that Taiwanese companies are engaging in illegal fishing, the press release states that any ship found guilty of illegal fishing will face strict penalties under the relevant laws.

In closing the press release states that the Taiwan Fisheries Agency“reiterates that it has implemented measures safeguarding rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas by Taiwanese distant water fishing vessels, and such measures will be reviewed accordingly, aiming at enhancing human rights and protection of foreign crew members.”