In order to implement all the strategies of the Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights, the Minister of the Council of Agriculture (COA), Dr. Chen, Chi-Chung, held a press conference today, and industry groups of distant water fishery, humanitarian NGOs as well as Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Interior were all invited. In this conference, the COA briefed the content of the Action Plan, and the industry groups shared their measures to improve and promote fishing crews’ labor rights. Moreover, the NGOs stressed their roles of oversight on this matter. With all these efforts, the fishing crews will be taken good care of, their rights and interests will be improved, and the industry will be sustainably developed.
The COA mentioned that the Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights was reported to the Executive Yuan yesterday. However, many works have been done before yesterday. For example, Minister without portfolio, Mr. Lo, Ping-Cheng, has hosted 7 inter-ministerial meetings for building the framework of this Action Plan, and there were another 4 seminars co-hosted by the Control Yuan for a comprehensive discussion of the connection of this Action Plan and the Collaboration Program on Improving Fishing Crews’ Human Rights of the Control Yuan; moreover, the Fisheries Agency of the COA has hold 25 conferences and workshops with participations from the industry and humanitarian NGOs for understanding the different opinions and bridging the gaps. In addition to these collaborative wisdoms, the relevant disciplines of the ILO-C188 Working in Fishing Convention (ILO-C188 Convention) were also taken into account by this Action Plan. Based on the balance of the long-term development of the industry and the protection of human rights, the Action Plan proposes seven strategies for current problems.
In the press conference of today, the Direct General of the Fisheries Agency, Dr. Chang, Chi-Sheng, further illustrated the contents of these strategies and summarized as follows,
- Implementing agreed working conditions: to make amendment to relevant regulations, including requiring no payment of salary be made through foreign recruitment agents, raising the minimum monthly salary to USD $550, establishing a salary review mechanism, and requiring the use of attendance record onboard.
- Strengthening living conditions and social protections: to require accommodation space on newly built fishing vessels to comply with the standards specified in the ILO-C188 Convention, and a number of 200 vessels will be phased out; to regulate a maximum 10-month stay at sea for distant water fishing vessels operating in different oceans; to increase the insured amount of the life insurance for crews to NTD $1.5 million (and a new requirement for medical insurance with the minimum insured amount of NTD $300,000); to subsidize operators of distant water fishing vessels and coastal and offshores fishing vessels and rafts to purchase 14,000 inflatable lifejackets; and to encourage the sharing of Wi-Fi with crews. It is noted that the COA had completed 21 onshore sanitation and leisure facilities and shore power construction to provide a friendly onshore living environment.
- Strengthening management of recruitment agents: to increase the frequency of interviewing recruitment agents conducting domestic employment; to require recruitment agents conducting overseas employment to obtain authorization from the Ministry of Labor and their counterparts in foreign countries to obtain authorization from their authority; to require recruitment agents to provide service to and take care of crews; and to suspend the authorization of recruitment agents with a certain percentage of missing crews.
- Improving monitoring control capacities: to inspect all 1,100 distant water fishing vessels in the first year of the Action Plan, and to inspect 50% of them annually thereafter; to promote the installation of CCTV system onboard; and to strengthen education training on the prevention of human trafficking for front-line personnel through the collaborative mechanism of combatting at-sea crimes established by the Ministry of Interior.
- Strengthening the management of foreign-flagged fishing vessels: to fully implement port State responsibilities by conducting joint inspections (interviews of crews onboard) on foreign-flagged fishing vessels entering domestic ports; to prohibit human-traffickers from investing in vessels flying flag of other countries, and also, to prohibit foreign-flagged vessels operated by such persons from entering domestic ports; and to further require investors of foreign vessels that have obtained authorization to implement labor condition requirements.
- Establishing and deepening international cooperation: to establish cooperation mechanism on crew affairs with foreign crews’ home countries to reduce recruitment risk; and to collaborate with the main market States on the issue of foreign crew’s rights.
- Promoting mutually beneficial partnership: to assist vessels to obtain the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification or participate in the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), with a target of 500 vessels in the coming four years; and to encourage improvements in fisheries through exercising due diligence.
Minister Dr. Chen emphasized that the Premier of the Executive Yuan, Mr. Su, Tseng-Chang, had pointed out in yesterday's Council Meeting of Executive Yuan that the COA should communicate with the industry and fishermen's associations for seeking their fulfillment of corporate social responsibilities, and illustrate the content of the Action Plan to domestic and foreign stakeholders and people to show Taiwan's commitment of improving the rights and interests of fishing crews. The representative of the industry groups, the Chairman of Taiwan Tuna Association, Mr. Yu-Chih Lin, addressed that the whole industry shared the view of the development and reputation of the distant water fishing industry cannot be affected by these few cases of inhumane working conditions. The industry will pragmatically improve the working conditions and living environment of crew members. The representative of NGOs, the East Asia Manager of Environmental Justice Foundation(EJF), Ms. Shao-Chi Chiu, expressed their willingness to play an active role of oversight on this matter and the NGOs will consistently request the Fishery Agency and the industry to fully implement this Action Plan and improve the human rights of migrant fishermen.
Finally, the COA indicated that the industry has to pay higher operating costs to improve working conditions for migrant fishermen to reverse the negative impressive of low wages, particularly during this difficult time of the pandemic and global recession. With this in mind, the government will provide NTD $640 million NTD for implementing this Action Plan and supporting the industry to adjust and upgrade. In addition, an NTD $470 million Qianzhen Fishing Port Project, which will provide onshore accommodation at a fair price, is currently in progress. The government will also provide NTD $950 million to reduce fishing vessels for adjusting the industry to the optimum scale. In total, the government will provide NTD $2 billion on the implementation of this Action Plan, and furthermore, the government is thinking about other feasible policy instruments to support the development of the industry. With the collaboration and resource integration of different ministries of the government, and the collective efforts of the industry and industrial groups, the rights and interests of migrant fishermen will be improved and a sustainable fishery will be secured.
Contact Person: Mr. Kuo-Ping Lin, Deputy Director-General of Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture
Contact Number: +886-9-88678051