2015.6 (Issue No.276)
I. Origin of the Fishermen’s Association
The Fishermen’s Association (FA) is the most important fishermen’s organization in Taiwan. Its members are mainly fishermen and the branches are established according to administrative districts and fishing grounds. It combines the dual characteristics of “professional cooperative business entity” and “fishing community resident cooperative entity”. The origin of the fishermen’s association can be traced back to Japanese Colonial era when it was called Fishery Association. After Taiwan's retrocession, the Taiwan Provincial Fishermen’s Association was established in 1950, and in 1955 the original 3-level division (province, county/city, and township/district) was restructured into 2-level division (province and district) according to All-level Fishermen’s Association Improvement Plan. Presently, there are 40 fishermen’s associations in Taiwan: 1 national and 39 regional with a total of 420 thousand members nationwide.
The core value of Taiwan’s fishermen’s association is to protect fishermen’s interests, upgrade fishermen’s knowledge and skill, increase fishermen’s income, improve fishermen’s livelihood, boost the modernization of fishing industry, and foster its development. In the early stages of the association its work was mainly centered on the promotion of fishery policies and home economics counseling. Its contribution in fishery technology transfer, increasing productivity and income, development of fishing communities, improvement of fishermen’s livelihood, and the modernization of fishing industry in Taiwan is invaluable.
II. Achievements of FA’s promotional work
Results of current fishery promotional works carried out through every regional FA are as follow:
1. Promotion of fishery policies
In order to be at the level of economic development and meet fishermen’s needs, the FA must effectively and swiftly transfer research extension technologies as well as relay all sorts of production and fishery policy information to fishermen in shortest time possible so as to advance their knowledge and skills, improve their livelihood, prosper fishing communities’ economy, and boost the modernization of fishing industry. The FA would organize fishery research groups and fishery production & retail groups according to each region’s production environment and characteristics. These groups would meet on a regular basis or during off-seasons for a variety of activities such as seminars, instructional courses, consultation sessions, and other educational events where fishermen can strengthen their knowledge on production, manufacturing, storage, and sales techniques as well as modernized management know-how. These groups can also teach fishermen how to adapt to the fast changing environment and improve production-sales structure so they can improve management efficiency and therefore, increase their income. Since 2010, COA’s Fisheries Agency has already granted 292 cases of capital equipment subsidies to production & retail groups totaling in NT$ 88.69 million. All the subsidized equipments were pressingly needed by fishermen of these groups, and they proved essential in elevating operation efficiency as well as product quality. It was estimated that the combined beneficial value of these equipments surpassed NT$ 1.5 billion. Currently there are 249 production & retail groups with 2,937 members.
2. Promotion of home economics
Targeting at fishing communities’ female members, the Fishermen’s Association counseled them in organizing home economics groups for the purpose of reinforcing family life education and strengthening family functionality in fishing communities. This project also aims to provide women in these communities with skill training and education with the goal of increasing their housekeeping capability and revitalizing fishing community economy. In the aspect of creating job opportunities for women, the brand Tian Mama home cooking and its gift line was developed by blending in rural cultural elements and local food ingredients. Furthermore, the promotion of diversified fishing community industries was also started in accordance with the development of fishing village tourism so as to present the new facet of fishing communities and bring prosperity. In recent years, the focus of home economics promotion has been gradually shifting towards preventive medicine and health education. It also includes life improvement measures for fishing communities’ senior citizens such as home care services, recycling of re-usable resources, and energy saving. On the other hand, in recent years the number of foreign spouses has been increasing in fishing communities. In order to help them blend in to their new life and lower the barriers that they may encounter in language, culture, and custom, the government has opened knowledge training courses for these new residents. Currently there are a total of 311 home economics groups throughout fishing villages around Taiwan, and with 9,478 members they have become an essential stabilizing force for fishing communities. Furthermore, 21 of those groups have joined the Tian Mama brand to increase income and improve their fishing communities’ lives.
3. Strengthening the four disciplines
In order to enhance the wholesome development of next generation fishermen’s skill, knowledge, body, and mind, the Fisheries Agency established the 4-discipline Task Group which recruits fishermen’s children between the age of 9 to 24 as members. The group organizes a wide variety of seminars and training courses that are informative, practical, artistic, and cultural so that its members may acquire talents and skills through these educational activities and other additional cultural and recreational activities. The ultimate goal is to enrich their knowledge and skills under the motto of: “To learn from work, and to work by learning” that will lead them to a deeper understanding of the fishery culture and further experience fishery activities. The project unites fishing village culture with the cultivation of fishery knowledge so that traditional skills and culture may be passed down to the next generation. Currently there are 134 operation groups with 3,791 members.
III. New development and counseling of FA’s economic enterprises
In recent years the Fishermen’s Associations in Taiwan have all began to actively develop their own economic enterprises. In addition to the traditional fish markets and ice factories, they aim to develop diversified businesses which mainly focus on the modernized fishery product direct-sale center.
In Taiwan, the concept of fishery product direct-sale center was officially implemented in 1991, and the Wuchi Fishery Product Direct Sales Center (FPDSC) in Taichung City was the pioneering center that took the initiative. The success of Wuchi Center not only aroused the interest of the fishing industry but also brought the government tremendous amount of confidence in promoting FPDSC, and therefore these centers flourished all over Taiwan. Until 2015, the establishment of FPDSCs funded or invested by government and fishermen’s associations are as follow in chronological order: Wuchi, Hsinchu, Fangliao, Fuji, Gengfang, Gweihou were completed before 1995; Jhuwei, Bisha, Houbihu, Wushih, Budai, Shihti, Jialan were completed before 1998; Chienjhen, Magong, Yongan, Anping and others were subsequently completed after. Over the years, some of the FPDSC operations had to be terminated due to elimination by market selection, and were repurposed for other uses. However, most centers are still running rather successful operations as of today. Currently there are 23 direct sales centers as shown in Table 1:
Table 1: List of 23 Fishery Product Direct Sales Centers in Taiwan
Currently 19 out of 23 (83%) FPDSCs are administered by fishermen’s associations, and they are these associations’ principal economic source. However, each fishermen’s association differs in its administrative management, some do not even have a professional management team to run the facility. Consequently, it has raised quite a few consumer complaints over sanitary conditions and disputes caused by deceitful transactions. These regretful incidents have seriously hampered the government’s effort in promoting FPDSCs and its effectiveness. Therefore, in order to better help fishermen’s associations in administrating FPDSCs, the COA’s Fishery Agency invited all city and county governments as well as fishermen’s associations to jointly establish a mechanism to evaluate and inspect the sanitation of the premises, service attitude and quality, public and sanitation facilities, and administration. City and county governments must carry out the evaluation and inspection on the FPDSCs regularly in order to ensure the quality of their services. Furthermore, the Fishery Agency has even subsidized the National Fishermen’s Association in organizing the “2013 Fishermen’s Association Direct Sales Center Administration and Operation Effectiveness Enhancement Program” in October, 2013. The program offered educational trainings, seminars, and field visits to outstanding businesses with the objective of strengthening the fishermen’s associations’ managerial capabilities for administrating FPDSCs.
IV. Fishermen’s Association’s response to social events and enterprise management
Compared to the 3-level system of the Farmer’s Association (National, City/County, Township/District), the 2-level system of the Fishermen’s Association (National and District) enjoys a more straight-forward inter-level communication. In recent years, the fishermen’s associations have actively aided or provided necessary assistances to the government in several fishery related incidents and events, for example: In September 2012 the Fishermen’s Association helped fishermen in a manifestation defending fishing rights at Diaoyutai Island, and provided assistance to the government on the subsequent negotiation of Taiwan-Japan Fishery Agreement as well as Taiwan-Japan Fishery Talks. In May 2013, Fishermen’s Association mobilized at the national level to protest at the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei against the atrocities committed by the Filipino Coast Guard in the Guangdahsing 28 Incident and demand justice and compensation for the crime. In November 2013, the National Fishermen’s Association issued a strong condemnation to a South Korean TV program that featured negative coverage of Taiwan's tilapia. The Association gathered proofs and worked alongside the government in demanding the correction from that same TV station which then officially broadcasted a correction on the wrong content. All the aforementioned examples show the fishermen’s association’s quick and active response towards changes for the industry.
The Fishermen’s Association’s public functions include fishing industry development, fishery education, fishing village development, and fishermen service. Historically, its contribution to the lives of fishermen in the early days was indelible. Nowadays its function has diversified with the progress of time, which includes financial services, fishery product processing, and centralized logistics and sales. It plays an additional and stabilizing role in fishery production and retailing. In recent years, each fishermen’s association has engaged actively in the development of its own economic enterprises. With the help from the government and the effort they put into the matter, their businesses have diversified in addition to the FPDSCs. Nowadays these associations compete for corporate and institution group catering orders, manage supermarket chains, offer recreational fishery, and develop processed high-end fishery products. Recently, there are even cases of fishermen’s associations successfully entering the airline catering and organic gastronomy supply chain. In conclusion, the Fishermen’s Association is moving forward towards further diversification and modernization.