Taiwan Fisheries Agency expressed condolences on the death of a Kiribati observer and has required concerned vessel to fully cooperate with the investigation by Kiribati.
On March 4, 2020, the Government of Taiwan reported the death incident of a Kiribati fishery observer on Win Far No.636, Eritara Aati Kaierua, to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Government of Kiribati. The Fisheries Agency (FA) of Taiwan expresses condolences on the loss of the observer and hopes the families and co-workers of the deceased recover soon from the unfortunate incident.
Regarding the New Zealand media Stuff and the American media SeafoodSource’s recent coverage of the incident, which include interviews with the observer ’s family and with the Kiribati police, the presumption that this might be a homicide case and that the FA, the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and local agent did not respond to the case, the FA wishes to comment on the false or disputable claims.
FA takes immediate actions upon receiving the notification, and respects Kiribati’s investigations and the non-disclosure principle
FA stated that, as soon as it received the vessel’s notification of the observer’s death, it notified the WCPFC Secretariat and Kiribati authorities, and required the vessel, Win Far No. 636, to cease all fishing operations, secure all the evidence on board, and return to Tarawa Port, Kiribati for investigation. FA’s investigation also started immediately upon the notification from the vessel. The preliminary findings showed that the position reports of the fishing vessel have been normal since it left port on February 13, and remain until it entered the port on March 7. In addition, the vessel has been staying in Tarawa Port to date, fully cooperating with Kiribati authorities with the investigations. It received the boarding and the investigation by Kiribati officials upon port entry, and provided the onboard CCTV records, maritime report, vessel track on the electronic chart at the time of the incident, the observer’s insurance policy, photo of the first scene, copy of the current trip logbook, the observer’s body and all the personal effects in the quarter to Kiribati Police. The crews on board also cooperated with Kiribati police during the investigation process.
According to a letter from the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development dated April 21, 2020, the cause of the observer’s death is still under investigation by the Kiribati Police Department, and the former appreciates Taiwan government and the vessel for the cooperation. Upon FA’s request for information on the case, the Kiribati authorities responded that the relevant information may only be provided after the investigation is fully completed. Based on the non-disclosure principle of investigations, the FA respects Kiribati’s position and the inconvenience to provide investigation-related information. When the Kiribati authority provided further details, the FA by its authority will determine if the fishing operations of Win Far No. 636 engaged in any violations. If the case involves the competence of judicial investigation, it would be transferred to the prosecution agency.
Without receiving any inquiry from foreign media, Taiwan Fisheries Agency calls upon the media not to provide misleading information
As for the Stuff coverage that the FA did not answer questions related to the case, The FA stated that it did not receive any inquiry from Stuff on the case. It hopes media practitioners uphold the balanced reporting principle, do not provide misleading information indicating the flag State and the observer provider did not fulfill their responsibilities. In addition, as the case is still under investigation, the FA calls for the media to report objectively and avoid prejudgment so as to prevent the investigation from being guided by public opinion. Furthermore, this is an individual case and the FA requests not to allude that countries or fishing vessels operating in the South Pacific have involved in unlawful activities that endangered observers’ safety.
The FA stated that the risk in distant water fishing operations is high, and therefore it is vital to ensure the safety of crews and observers onboard. In recent years, the FA continued to strengthen the regulations on fishing vessels in terms of the safety and health management for crews and observers. In WCPFC, it also supports the adoption and the implementation of observer safety protection measure. With regard to the case of Win Far No. 636, the FA will collect all relevant evidence, conduct investigation in accordance with relevant regulations, and provide the investigation report to WCPFC and Kiribati authorities in fulfilling of Taiwan’s responsibility as a flag State.
Contact: Deputy Director-General Kuo-Ping LIN