Taiwanese vessel accused of fishing in Palau Shark Sanctuary
Taiwan checking report about illegal fishing in Palau: officialBy Yang Shu-min and Sofia Wu, Focus Taiwan, 10. December 2011
Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) The government has sought the help of Palau to verify a Greenpeace report that a Taiwanese vessel had been caught fishing illegally in the Pacific island nation’s shark sanctuary, a senior Council of Agriculture (COA) official said Friday.
“We have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contact the Palau government for more information about the situation,” said Sha Chih-yi, director-general of the COA’s Fisheries Agency.
According to a 2009 Associated Press report, Palau set up the world’s first shark sanctuary that year to help protect over 130 endangered Pacific shark species from extinction. The sanctuary covers an area that extends up to 200 miles from the coastline of Palau, one of Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies.
A Greenpeace report released Friday said Palauan fisheries officials have boarded and detained the Taiwanese fishing vessel Sheng Chi Hui No. 7 suspected of illegal fishing activities during a joint patrol with the Greenpeace of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The report further said a Greenpeace helicopter spotted sharks and fins on board the Sheng Chi Hui on Dec. 8, while the fishing vessel was inside Palau’s shark sanctuary.
Although the Taiwanese crew had denied breaching any fishing regulations, the report said, the vessel is being escorted by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and a Palauan patrol boat to a port in Palau for further investigation.
Responding to the report, Sha said, the government tends to respect information released by major international environmental protection organizations such as Greenpeace.
“But in this case, we still need to get more information through the Palauan government to verify relevant reports,” Sha said.
According to a 2003 international regulation on shark finning, the weight of fins onboard must not exceed 5 percent of the entire weight of sharks on board.
Sha recalled that a Taiwanese fishing boat was once fined by the South African government because the weight of shark fins exceeded the 5 percent ceiling when it landed at a port in the African country.
“In addition, we banned the ship from fishing operations for a month, and had its skipper recalled and his license suspended for a year,” Sha noted.
Therefore, he said if the Sheng Chi Hui was proved to have committed illegal shark finning, it will not only be fined by the Palauan government but will also be punished by the Fisheries Agency.
Please see the Greenpeace blog entry (with photos) Greenpeace and Palau bust pirates in Palau shark sanctuary
Source: Focus Taiwan