Kaoshiung, Taiwan.– Ten Greenpeace activists occupied the largest shipbuilding yard in Taiwan on Friday, accusing the Taiwanese government of undermining international fishing agreements set up to combat the global overfishing crisis.
Activists unfurled a large banner saying “Overfishing Starts Here” at the facility where massive industrial fishing boats destined to fish across the globe's oceans are built.
The peaceful protest coincides with the Save Our Oceans East Asia Tour in which the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza is in Taiwan, raising awareness of the impacts of overfishing on the oceans and the communities dependent on them.
"Our oceans and the billions dependent on them for food and jobs need fewer massive boats and more fish. The Taiwanese government is cheating international agreements and Greenpeace is taking peaceful action today to demand it adhere to scientific advice and help end overfishing,” said Yu Fen Kao, Greenpeace East Asia senior oceans campaigner.
“In the end, it is the small-scale fishing communities and the people of Taiwan that will suffer most from empty oceans and collapsed fish populations."
Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency (FA) had agreed in 2008 to follow the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s advice to reduce fishing effort by limiting the number of fishing days for its purse-seine tuna fleets (1).
The regulation is meant to allow Pacific tuna stocks to recover from overfishing, as three of the four main tuna species are already threatened with commercial extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2).
Instead, the FA has sidestepped the regulation and is allowing its industry to build bigger ships with larger storage capacity, directly undermining efforts to rescue tuna populations.
Taiwan's Fisheries Agency approved 22 new big purse seine ships between 2007 to 2012. And the total new purse seine tonnage is 38,988 tons (3).
Taiwan's distant water fishing fleet mainly operates in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, home to more than 60 percent of the world's tuna. Taiwan has the most fishing vessels in the region – 72 purse seiners and 1,600 long liners (4). In addition, half of the US purse seiners are owned and operated by Taiwanese companies.
Other fishing powers currently building more industrial-scale fishing boats include France, Spain, China and South Korea.
"We have too many boats in our oceans chasing too few fish. Government and business leaders must end the madness and stop building these gigantic boats from fishing the industry out of existence,” said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner.
“We need action from consumers, who will refuse to no longer buy fish from companies that are adding more unsustainable fishing capacity into our oceans and instead demand fish for the future.”
Greenpeace is campaigning for responsible fishery management to end overfishing and to support a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans. Both are necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health and to maintain living oceans and ample fish for future generations. ??