After being warned by the European Commission (EC) as possible non-cooperating third countries (the so called “yellow card”) in October 2015, Taiwan has put great efforts to strengthen its fisheries management on four (4) aspects, specifically the legal framework, monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), traceability, and international cooperation. With years of hard work and constructive dialogues with the EC, the EC resolves on 27 June to lift the yellow card. It is also agreed to establish a Working Group on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing between Taiwan and the EC, so as to deepen the collaboration in this regard and to ensure the legitimacy and traceability of fisheries products.
Removing the yellow card to ensure the exportation of Taiwan’s fisheries products to the European Union
The EC adopted in 2008 the “Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing” to implement its catch certificate scheme. Starting from 2012, the EC has been in formal dialogue with relevant third countries, and for those countries that fails to manage fisheries under international law, the EC may issue yellow card to warn such countries. If the country concerned still has not shown the necessary commitment to reform, it will be identified and listed as non-cooperating third country (the red card). As such, the fisheries products from this country will be banned from being imported into the European Union. Today, the removing of the yellow card indicates that the EC has recognized Taiwan’s fisheries management scheme and the legitimacy of its fisheries products, and the concerns of seafood companies worldwide can be dispelled, thereby facilitating the trade of Taiwan’s fisheries products.
Cross-agency actions to jointly combat IUU fishing and improve fisheries management on 4 aspects
The Council of Agriculture points out that, to enhance Taiwan’s fisheries management, the Council has engaged in consultation with relevant authorities and organizations for more than three (3) years. Substantial progress has been gained in the following four (4) aspects:
- Legal framework: the “three fisheries acts” were adopted, namely the Act for Distant Water Fisheries, the amended Act to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels, and the amended Fisheries Act. In addition, under the authorization of the legislation, several implementing regulations and notices were drawn up, and came into force together with the three (3) fisheries acts in January 2017. The legal basis governing Taiwan’s distant water fisheries is thus reinforced.
- MCS: Series of actions were taken to strengthen management scheme. For example, all distant water fishing vessels are installed with the electronic logbook (e-logbook) system. A Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC) that runs 24/7 is established to grasp the movement of Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleets. Landing declaration scheme is implemented. 32 foreign ports are designated where Taiwanese distant water fishing vessels are allowed to land or transship only at those ports. More fisheries inspectors are recruited to reinforce inspection capacity. Port State measures are implemented on foreign vessels that enter Taiwan. More observers are hired to raise the coverage and meet the international standard.
- Traceability: Strategy Plan for Auditing Industry Related to Distant Water Fisheries was drafted and implemented, whereby auditing and guiding exporters to ensure the fisheries products purchased are not involved in IUU fishing.
- International cooperation: cooperation arrangements with 22 countries with high relevance with Taiwan in terms of fisheries were concluded. Taiwan’s image in the international society are enhanced by improving the compliance record within the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs).
Furthermore, to successfully execute abovementioned measures, the Executive Yuan set up a Cross-Ministerial Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing, to integrate and coordinate the capacities of relevant authorities, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Council of Ocean Affairs, Ministry of Labor, and Council of Agriculture. With the establishment of such Task Force, Taiwan’s National Plan of Control and Inspection for Fisheries (NPCI) are carried out smoothly on all fronts, ranging from vessel safety, enforcement at sea, hygiene inspection, control of import and export, and deterrence of IUU fishing. In the end, the determination of Taiwan Government produces the sweetest fruit.
The international trend and States’ responsibilities to combat IUU fishing
The Council further states that, marine-captured products are one of the essential sources of premium protein. Hence, fisheries have become a paramount industry for human being. Nevertheless, IUU fishing activities have not only undermined the efforts exerted by the international community for conserving marine fishery resources, but also posed a threat to the resources sustainability and biodiversity. The dwindling fish stocks will decrease the profit and consequently impact the livelihood of fishermen, the law-abiding ones in particular. On this account, every country has to play its role in the fight against IUU fishing. As an important member to the international society, Taiwan has fully enhanced its fisheries management by discharging its duties as a responsible flag State, market State as well as port State.
The determination to combat IUU fishing and the collaboration with the EC and other partners remain
The Council emphasizes that, being lifted from the yellow card means that Taiwan is on the right track and seafood companies can rest assured of the legitimacy and traceability of fisheries products originated from Taiwan. Nonetheless, Taiwan will not be self-complacent and lax about its management measures. On the contrary, in the future, Taiwan will continue collaborating with like-minded partners like the EC and fisheries related organizations, and participate proactively in RFMOs, so as to carry out related international rules and fulfill its duties under the international law. It is believed that, with concerted efforts, the world can win the fight against IUU fishing and ensure the sound marine ecosystem and sustainability of fisheries.