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Taiwanese fishing vessels caught killing dolphins, finning sharks

Indonesian crews aboard 5 ships ordered to kill dolphins for shark bait, illegally fin sharks and toss them back overboard, according to NGO Environmental Justice Foundation

File photo

File photo (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The NGO Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has reportedly completed a new report that charges illegal and unethical conduct aboard many of Taiwan’s fishing vessels.

Earlier in 2018, the EJF released a mini documentary that examined some of the inhumane conditions that many overseas migrant workers face working aboard Taiwanese fishing vessels and also the illegal fishing practices of the ships

The new report focuses on the unethical practices of five fishing vessels, and their disregard for endangered species and sustainable fishing practices.

It’s been reported that the EJF has completed an undercover operation examining fishing practices aboard five long-line vessels flying the Taiwanese flag, or operating under Taiwanese ownership. Most of the crew members on board these vessels were Indonesian fishermen, according to Fish Information & Services (FIS).

A troubling part of the recent report includes charges that the crews of the five ships are killing dolphins, often by use of harpoons, or electric shock, to use their meat as shark bait. The report says on each ship, as many as 100 dolphins a month were killed, on voyages that last as long as three months.

Dolphins are a protected species under Taiwanese law.

The EJF investigation also found that once the sharks are caught, most of them are immediately finned, and thrown back into the ocean to die. This practice was reportedly ordered by the captains of all five fishing vessels, despite being officially banned by the Taiwanese government.

Some vulnerable species of turtle were also among the animals killed by the five fishing vessels.

The vessels were officially tasked with catching tuna and other fish that would make its way to the lucrative regional market as sashimi. However, the investigation reveals that collecting shark fin, which is banned by the Taiwanese government, forms a major part of the vessels’ business.

A statement from the EJF is reported by FIS.

“The NGO concluded that it is evident that inspections by the Taiwanese Fisheries Agency were ineffective and easily evaded. Once in port, crew simply put the shark fins at the bottom of the freezers under a layer of fish so they were hidden from view, to be sold in the early hours of the morning.”

Following the min-doc released in March, the Taiwanese Fisheries Agency released a press statement claiming that there were already comprehensive regulations in place that fishing vessels and their owner companies must abide by. If any company is found to be in violation of the regulations, they will be subject to punishment, says the press release.

EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent was quoted as saying,“Killing dolphins to catch sharks, this is madness: rogue Taiwanese fishing vessels are ripping the heart out of our oceans."

The NGO is calling for immediate action to be taken against the vessels, and for more stringent inspections to be undertaken by the Taiwanese government to stop illegal and unethical fishing practices, as well as crack down on companies that regularly engage in human rights abuses of their employees.

The Taiwanese Fisheries Department has not yet responded to the newest EJF report.