In recent years,Taiwan government has dedicated to enhancing the protection of rights and benefits of foreign crew members. Regarding the video launched by the Environmental Justice Foundation(EJF),its indication on the exploitation of human rights in Taiwan’s fishing industry is not exactly the truth. The Fisheries Agency hereby stated its efforts to safeguard the rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas by distant water fishing vessels of Taiwan.
- 1. Currently,there are about 1,140 fishing vessels authorized to conduct distant water fisheries,and 19 thousand foreign crew members are reported being employed on distant water fishing vessels. As per our domestic regulations,any fishing vessel without permission is not authorized to conduct distant water fisheries,and any employment of foreign crew member is required to report to the competent authority for authorization,otherwise such violation will be subject to punishment.
- 2. The laws and regulations pertinent to rights and benefits of foreign crew members were with low legal hierarchy and provided less sufficient protection in the early years. Therefore,the Council of Agriculture promulgated and implemented the “Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members” on 20 January 2017 under the empowerment of “Distant Water Fisheries Act”,aiming to improve the rights and benefits of foreign crew members. Key provisions of this Regulations are as follows:
- (1) Stipulating that the minimum monthly wage is USD$450 and shall be paid directly to the crew member either in cash or by remitting/transferring to the foreign crew member’s designated account.
- (2) Stipulating that the minimum daily rest time is 10 hours,and 4 days off per month is required. The operator is also required to respect the need of foreign crew member for religious holidays.
- (3) Requiring the operator to insure for the foreign crew member the accident,medical and life insurance,and the insured amount of the life insurance shall not be less than NTD$1,000,000. In the event that the foreign crew member is subject to any accident or injury resulting from carrying out duties,the operator shall arrange immediate medical treatment and bear the medical fees and other costs.
- (4) Requiring the operator to bear any transportation costs between habitation of the foreign crew member and the fishing vessel.
- (5) Requiring the operator to provide foreign crew member with convenient conditions of filing complaints to the relevant authorities.
The Fisheries Agency elaborated that the current regulations have already taken employment agents into management through establishing joint liability and the reviewing system. The employment agent shall submit a certain amount of guarantee bond(ranging from NTD$1.5 million to NTD$5 million) in accordance with the number of crews. In the event that the operator fails to fulfill any aforementioned obligations on wage,insurance,medical care,transportation cost,damage compensation and other requirements,the Fisheries Agency will claim to cover such fees by using of the guarantee bond.
The Fisheries Agency stated that the complaint filing channels for crew members on distant water fishing vessels have been established(dial 1955 for domestic calls,or+886-2-8073-3141 for international calls). Meanwhile,starting from 2017,personnel have been assigned to interview foreign crew members in domestic and foreign ports using questionnaires. In the event that any operator or employment agent is suspicious of violation,investigation will be carried out accordingly. To further advocate crew members’ rights,educational cards are distributed to the crew members as well. In addition,there will be inspections on the compliance of fisheries and labor regulations. Distant water fishing vessels will be inspected by the Fisheries Agency and the Ministry of Labor within their respective competences upon entry into domestic ports. For the vessel owners and employment agents confirmed to have violated the relevant employment regulations,stringent penalties will be applied. In the event that any domestic fishing vessel,or foreign fishing vessel operated by nationals,involves in a violation of Human Trafficking Prevention Act,such case will be referred to domestic judicial authority for investigation,and its responsibility for actions in contravention of the said Act will be ascertained.
According to the Fisheries Agency,any domestic distant water fishing vessel or foreign fishing vessel operated by nationals engaging in illegal fishing operation is subject to severe penalties under the “Distant Water Fisheries Act” or “the Act to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels”.
The Fisheries Agency clarified the misunderstandings indicated in the EJF’s report and video are as follows:
- 1. In terms of any labor disputes involving the foreign-flagged fishing vessels and the foreign crew members as referred to EFJ’s report,it is an international practice that the principle of flag state jurisdiction should be respected.
- 2. In terms of the image of shooting at whom fallen into the sea as referred to EJF’s video,our finding is that this is an incident occurred onboard a foreign-flagged fishing vessel shooting the fallen pirates in the Indian Ocean in 2013. This is irrelevant to the issue of foreign crew members.
- 3. Regarding the expression of another foreign crew member that the fishing vessel employing him was detained in Thailand and his wage has not been fully paid as referred to the video,our finding is that the vessel is foreign-flagged and was detained by the Thai government in 2016. As a Taiwanese may involve in this case,the Fisheries Agency has already submitted the relevant information to the Prosecutor’s Office.
- 4. Regarding the expression of foreign crew members about witnessing of shark finning as referred to the video,Taiwan has enacted and promulgated relevant laws and regulations on fins naturally attached or alternatively to be tied to the corresponding carcass since 2012,finning is strictly prohibited since then. Taiwan has also sent inspectors to domestic and foreign ports for conducting landing inspection on Taiwanese vessels,and such inspections conclude rarely any finning happened onboard Taiwanese vessel. Furthermore,pursuant to the “Distant Water Fisheries Act”,which have entered into force since 20 January 2017,any operator that violates such provision shall be subject to a fine no less than NTD$500 thousand and his/her fishing license may be suspended.
The Fisheries Agency reiterated that it has implemented measures safeguarding rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas by Taiwanese distant water fishing vessels,and such measures will be reviewed accordingly,aiming at enhancing human rights and protection of foreign crew members.
Contact person:Kuo-Ping Lin,Deputy Director-General