Fisheries Agency Keeps Protecting Ocean Resources and Valuing Foreign Crew Rights and Benefits
Regarding the press conference “The Ministry of Labor Assumes Sleep and The Fisheries Agency Works Poor” held by the Taiwan Migrant Worker Human Rights’ Protection Alliance (hereinafter referred to as the Alliance) on June 24, 2020, which claimed the update investigation indicates the Taiwanese fishing vessels still have salary deduction and excessive overtime cases. The Fisheries Agency responds despite it is not the competent authority of labor issue, it still strives to improve and protect the rights and benefits of foreign crew. If any violation is found, the Agency will impose penalties for such a violation.
With regard to one member of the Alliance, Environment Justice Foundation (EJF) claimed and reported 62 Taiwanese fishing vessels had the activities of shark finning, violence abuse and salary deduction (35 vessels of which involved in illegal fishing cases and 59 vessels of which related to human rights abuse cases). The Agency indicated it has launched investigations on such illegal fishing and human rights abuse cases respectively by means of domestic/foreign ports inspection and interviewing with concerned parties in the ports. Once the infringement is confirmed, sanctions will be imposed without doubt, and if the cases involve the issue of human trafficking, such cases will be forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office for criminal processing. The above 62 fishing vessels also will prioritize to be inspected either on the high seas or in the ports by the Agency so as to clarify and respond to the claims made by EJF.
Concerning the Alliance’s calling to abolish the Regulations of overseas employment of foreign crew and handover to Labor Standards Act, the Agency would like to point out, besides to effectively implement the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members, the Agency will also continuously review the current practices so as to shorten the gap between the Labor Standards Act and the Regulations. As to speed up the implementation of Convention 188, the Agency explained that the conditions such as working hours and working age stipulated in Convention 188 had already covered when the above Regulations entry into force in 2017.
The Alliance also suggests increasing the number of labor and fishing inspectors, together with enhancing the frequency of high seas boarding inspection. The Agency addressed currently the inspectors were sent to the most-visited ports by Taiwanese fishing vessels and such ports took up 80% or more of Taiwanese fishing vessels landed their catch abroad. Considering the inspectors shall obtain the consent of the Port State, the Agency will continue working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking the opportunities of sending our inspectors to the Port State where Taiwanese fishing vessels visit the most.
Another suggestion from the Alliance is to increase the coverage of observers and accelerate the development of electronic monitoring. The Agency addressed that our coverage of observers met with the requirements of regional fisheries management organizations(RFMOs). As for the issue of electronic monitoring, it is understood that many countries are attempting to develop a salt-durable, high battery storage and high-resolution equipment so as to catch up with the study and discussion of the RFMOs. Presently, the Agency is also delving into such study, taking into account the operation pattern of our fleets.
Lastly, in response to the Alliance’s suggestion on creating a cross-agency audit group to fight against illegal fishing and human trafficking, the Agency would like to express that the Ministry of Labor as well as the Agency will conduct investigation within their authorities when our distant water fishing vessels enter into our ports. The Agency re-emphasizes safeguarding the rights and benefits of foreign crew working on Taiwanese fishing vessels is the firm position of the Agency. The Agency will keep communicating with NGOs and fishery-related organizations on the issue of improving the rights and benefits of foreign crew working on Taiwanese fishing vessels.
Contact Point: Deputy Director-General Mr. Kuo-Ping Lin