The Campaign for Sustainable Fisheries

Taiwan Declares War on Illegal Fishing

2018 / May

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Taiwan is the world’s sixth largest fishing nation in terms of hauls from international waters. Every year our fishing fleet catches upwards of 700,000 metric tons of fish, more than 80% of which is exported—to the tune of NT$30 billion in foreign earnings.

Yet with declining oceanic stocks and with the European Commission’s “yellow card” issued against Taiwan in 2015, the signs are clear: Taiwan must strengthen its fisheries management. Over the last two years, the ROC government has been working hard to make amends, both revising its laws governing fishing on the high seas to make them as strong as the EU’s and rigorously enforcing those laws to come down hard on illegal fishing. Taiwan’s determination to meet its international responsibilities to protect the oceans as a major fishing nation is clear.



It’s a cool early morning on the cusp of spring and summer, at a dock on the west bank of Kao­hsiung’s Qian­zhen Fishing Port. At eight, a transshipment vessel—in this case a “reefer ship” (refrigerated cargo vessel) that has collected the catch of 24 Taiwanese fishing boats at the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius—begins to unload its cargo.

Deep-frozen bigeye and yellowfin tuna are taken out of –50°C freezers. Covered with frost, the fish grow shrouded in snowy mist when they hit the ambient temperature of +20°C. The unloading crew skillfully operates the forklifts, moving pallets of bigeye tuna weighing dozens of kilos into refrigerated containers. After weighing, they will be shipped to Japan.

Fighting illegal fishing

In addition to buyers, there is another group of people keeping their eyes on these fish: inspectors from the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency. The FA’s Yi Zhi­jian, who has been on the job for six years, leads a group of six inspectors who arrived before the unloading started with two sets of cameras to document the entire process. “We mobilized so many people because this reefer ship is transferring the catches of so many fishing boats to Taiwan,” explains Yi. “During unloading, it’s all divided up accordingly and put into different refrigerated containers or trucks. We need to ensure that these vehicles have been properly weighed, and that the amounts of quota-restricted species—such as bigeye tuna from the Pacific or yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean—aren’t too high.” 

After ascertaining the boat’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) number, the inspectors check that the Chinese and English names of the vessel match the records and that this reefer was indeed the ship for which an unloading application had been filed. These measures are meant to protect against fraudulent identities. Meanwhile, other inspectors check that the hatches on the holds are still locked down, then open them up and inspect the holds to ensure that they contain no forbidden species such as oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) or silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis).

A year ago, Yi was still an observer with the Fisheries Agency. Observers go out to sea with Taiwan’s long-range fleet for six months to a year. As soon as the boats start to cast their nets, the observers begin to take notes about the species, lengths and weights of the fish being caught. Apart from providing data for both academia and industry that can be used to track changes in global fishing stocks, they watch whether seabirds, sea turtles or other untargeted species are ending up in the boats’ nets. They also monitor for overfishing and for illegal transfers between boats.

As he boards the vessel to conduct the inspection, Yi recounts his experiences at sea as an observer: “Every observer loses ten kilos on their first six-month stint at sea. We’d joke that we were on the ‘ocean diet.’ It was mainly because we were landlubbers unaccustomed to life at sea. Aboard the fishing boats, we’d eat canned food and deep-fried or hotly spiced fish. The more we ate, the skinnier we got. We’d eat a huge amount of sashimi too, typically from fish that had been partially eaten by sharks.” Especially in stormy seas, it’s tough to monitor fishing and stand in opposition to the captain.

Fisheries in crisis

Inspectors and observers are at the front lines of the FA’s enforcement efforts. Their work constitutes a concrete measure to support the efforts of international fishery organizations to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing at a time when fisheries are nearing exhaustion around the globe.   

With technological advancements such as GPS and electronic fish finders, and with constantly advancing fishing gear and methods, oceanic fish of all sizes, species and behaviors—and migratory epi­pelagic and meso­pelagic fish in particular—are rapidly disappearing. Experts estimate that global fishing fleet capacity is four times what is needed. High-tech fishing methods are leading to the rapid exhaustion of fisheries.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, some 30%—or US$13.8 billion worth—of global fish hauls in recent years have been illegal. Overfishing is seriously threatening the diversity and sustainability of this global resource. Consequently, stamping out illegal fishing is a major target of inter­national efforts to conserve oceanic fisheries.

Three-pronged approach

According to the Fisheries Agency, Taiwan is among the world’s 20 largest fishing nations and is one of the top six in terms of hauls from the high seas. It catches more Pacific saury in the northern Pacific and more alba­core tuna in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic than any other nation.

Yet ­Huang Hong-yen, the FA’s director-general, points out that the yellow-card warning issued by the European Commission in 2015 came as a wake-up call for Taiwan. Apart from strengthening communication with the EU, the ROC has revised its legislation governing high-seas fishing, by newly enacting the Act for Distant Water Fisheries, and amending both the Fisheries Act and the Act to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels. Fishing vessels are required to make reports every day in electronic logbooks. To prevent “fish laundering” and quota busting, they can only unload or transfer their hauls at designated domestic and international fishing ports. Meanwhile, the FA has doubled the number of its observers and established an integrated system of data collection to better meet its duties as a responsible steward of global fisheries.

The FA requires long-range fishing boats to transmit their locations by satellite every hour and undergo round-the-clock tracking by the Fisheries Monitoring Center, which charts the movements of 1,200 boats, including those registered in Taiwan as a flag of con­veni­ence. This close monitoring allows the FA to determine whether boats have strayed into areas where fishing is forbidden or have illegally entered the exclusive economic zones of other nations.

Previously, the highest fine available under the Fisheries Act was NT$300,000, but today the highest fine under the amended laws governing long-range fishing is NT$4.5 million. With the FA strictly enforcing these laws, during the first three months of last year Taiwanese fishing boat owners were fined a total of NT$58.75 million for 71 violations—including the filing of false electronic reports about bigeye tuna hauls, unloading at ports without permission, and having illegible hull markings.

Taiwan Tuna Longline Association secretary-general Martin Ho explains, “The EU system gives ‘points’ for violations, whereas our system directly imposes fines from NT$2 million to tens of millions. Worldwide, only the EU and Taiwan require hourly satellite location reports and daily catch reports. Neither Japanese nor mainland Chinese boats are under similar requirements. Taiwan now monitors fishing even more strictly than the EU.”

Economics and conservation: A balance

“I know that fishermen are angry, but international law must be respected,” explains the FA’s ­Huang. “There is no way around it. The reforms will cause pain for a period as the system is being established. But there is a global consensus about the need to protect the sustainability of oceanic resources. International waters are resources that belong to all of humanity, and Taiwan’s high-sea fishing fleet is doing its best to stamp out il­legal fishing there.” 

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has set Taiwan’s longline fishing quota for bigeye tuna in 2018 at 10,481 metric tons, 806 tons more than the previous year. The increase demonstrates that years of diligent cooperation and sacrifice to revive fisheries have paid off—that marine conservation efforts, combined with the oceans’ natural ability to renew themselves, are bringing benefits to the citizens of the world. As British journalist Charles Clover says in the 2009 documentary The End of the Line: “The sea belongs to us, the citizen, not to the fishermen....”.


Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立


但是海洋資源日趨匱乏,加上歐洲聯盟執行委員會(European Commission)2015年給予黃牌警示,提醒加強漁業管理。兩年多來台灣政府戰戰兢兢、如臨深淵,增修與歐盟相同嚴格標準的遠洋漁業三法雷厲執行,打擊非法漁捕作業,展現漁業大國善盡國際責任,守護海洋的決心。


  從零下50 度超低溫保存艙拖出的大目鮪、黃鰭鮪,包裹著一層美麗的白霜,遇到攝氏20度的室溫,發出一縷縷白煙。卸貨工人熟練地操著苦力叉,一勾把重達幾十公斤的大目鮪拖進冷凍貨櫃車,過磅後將輸往日本。









檢查員與觀察員作為漁業署執法最前線,是台灣配合國際漁業組織與國際趨勢,打擊IUU(Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,即從事非法、未報告及不受規範漁捕行為)的具體行動之一,這些從全球漁業資源面臨枯竭的現象說起。


依據聯合國糧農組織(Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO)的報告,近年全世界海洋漁獲 30%來自非法捕魚,產值約 100 億歐元(138 億美元),嚴重威脅水產資源的永續利用及生物多樣性。打擊「非法捕漁行動」成為國際間為維持海洋漁業資源永續利用的首要目標。


根據漁業署的統計,台灣是名列全球前 20 名的漁業國家,也是世界6大公海捕魚國之一,台灣在北太平洋的秋刀魚產量、印度洋與南大西洋的長鰭鮪捕獲量世界居冠。

參與遠洋漁業事務超過30年的漁業署長黃鴻燕指出,全球國際漁業組織,以總量來管制捕撈當地洄游性魚類資源。台灣雖不是聯合國會員國,並且遭到中國打壓,但由於台灣漁獲量大,中西太平洋漁類委員會(WCPFC)、 大西洋鮪類保育委員會(ICCAT)等國際區域漁業組織,均力邀台灣參加,台灣在這些區域國際漁業組織扮演重要的角色。








然而台灣的遠洋法比歐盟還要嚴格,何世杰指出:「歐盟的法規對於處罰是『記點』,而不是像我們一發現違規後就罰款200 萬至幾千萬元。全世界只有歐盟與台灣需要每小時衛星回報船位,每天回報電子漁獲,中國與日本都不用,台灣成為比歐盟更嚴格執行漁業監督管控的國家。」




恰好中西太平洋漁業委員會(WCPFC)今年公布,我國延繩釣大目鮪配額為1萬481公噸,較2017年增加806公噸。顯示經過多年的努力配合配額與犧牲,換取資源的恢復,當努力保育海洋,海洋資源生生不息,最終受益的還是與海洋共生的全民。正如改編自英國記者查爾斯.克勞福(Charles Clover)著作,拍成紀錄片《魚線的盡頭》中所提到:「海裡的魚不是屬於漁民,而應該是全民所有。」



文・曾蘭淑 写真・林格立 翻訳・笹岡 敦子













検査員と観察員は漁業署の法執行の最前線である。台湾が漁業管理の国際機関と世界の趨勢に対応してIUU (Illegal,Unpreported and Unregulated fishing)、つまり違法・無報告・無規制に行われる漁業を取り締まる具体的なアクションの一つなのである。それは、世界的な水産資源の枯渇から話さねばならない。















X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!