Fisheries resources are renewable resources. Overuse of these resources will affect their reproduction. In order to prevent this to happen, the work of fisheries management should be focused on reduction of fishing efforts, creation of excellent ecosystem, restocking of fisheries resources, and establishment of the concept of conservation in the mind of the general public. For many years, the government has been actively promoting the following work, in the practice of responsible fisheries:
I. Reduction of Fishing Efforts
(1) Restriction on the Building of Fishing Vessels
In 1967, the system of vessel building replacement on trawl fishing vessels under 300 GRT was implemented, and as from 1989 this system was applicable to all types of fishing vessels.
(2) Vessel Buyback Programs
Between 1991 and 1995, the first phase of vessel buyback program was implemented, during which 2,337 vessels (120,000 GRT) were purchased by the government. The second phase of the program was launched in 2000. Between 2000 and 2014, under the program, the government purchased 946 fishing vessels (168,000 GRT) and 1,906 fishing rafts.
(3) Fishing Layoff Encouragement
Encouragement is provided to fishing vessels and fishing rafts which engage in fishing layoffs. Those fishing vessels and rafts which have operated at sea for more than 90 days, are qualified to receive fishing layoff incentives for 90 days berthing in port.
II. Promotion of Restocking of Fisheries Resources
(1) Release of Fish Fry
By means of artificial propagation, healthy and excellent quality fish fry are spawned and released to the sea, thus enabling restocking of fisheries resources. Currently, about 10 million fry are released annually, with species mostly covering threadfin fish, sand snapper, snubnose pompano, seabreams, snappers, groupers, etc.
(2) Deployment of Artificial Fish Reefs
Artificial reefs are structures made of natural or man-make materials sunk to suitable positions in the sea, to change the marine environments of habitats, in order to improve the environments of fishing grounds, whereby restocking fisheries resources. To-date, Taiwan has established 88 localities of artificial fish reefs, covering a total sea surface area of about 237 square kilometers. The types of reefs include cement reefs, electricity wire pole reefs, steel reefs, vessel reefs, and naval ship reefs, with steel reefs and vessel reefs the most common ones.
III. Protection of the Environment of Habitats
To ensure marine biodiversity and protect the ecology of coastal areas, as from 1978 the government has been demarcating fisheries resources conservation areas aiming at the conservation of important ecological areas and species. To-date, 27 localities of fisheries resources conservation areas have been established, covering a total sea surface area of more than 5,000 Hectares. The species under conservation include: abalones, lobsters, hard clams, purple clam, venus clam, sea urchins, agar, mud shrimp, reef fish, horseshoe crab, trochus, etc.
IV. Improvement in the Work of Conservation and Management
To enhance the management of marine capture fisheries, the management measures imposed include, inter alia, closed fishing areas, closed fishing seasons, restrictions on fishing gears and fishing methods, restrictions on fish size and catch limits, and reporting of catch. They are described as follows:
(1) Control of Trawl Fishing
Trawl fishing is a fishing method involving dragging of nets by fishing vessels. It is considered as an aggressive fishing method. When the net drags over the bottom of the sea, it may easily damage the ecology of the seabed and habitats of marine organisms. In addition, fish net has low selectivity, causing by-catch of unwanted species. Therefore, mostly fishery countries have taken trawl fishing as the key targets in their fisheries management. Currently, the management rules applicable include: “Prohibition of trawl fishing in areas within 3 nautical miles from the coast, and restrictions on trawl fishing by vessels under 50 GRT in areas between 3 and 12 nautical miles from the coast.”
(2) Control of Gillnet Fishing
Gillnets are classified into single layer and multilayer nets. Multilayer gillnets compose of up to as many as four layers of nets with different mesh sizes. They have the advantage of high fishing efficiency, but the drawbacks of bycatch of small and juvenile fish, damage of habitats by entangling of net to reef rocks, and ghost fishing by lost gears forming “wall of death”. The measures taken by the government for the control of gillnets are described as follows:
i. For conducting gillnet fishing within Taiwan’s 200-mile waters, prior authorization from the competent fisheries authority is required, and the size fishing vessel used is limited to those under 100 GRT, with the length of gillnet less than 2.5 kilometers.
ii. Unless authorized to perform gillnet fishing, no fishing vessel is permitted to re-model to gillnet fishing vessel or install gillnet equipment or carry gillnet gears or equipment.
iii. For controlling gillnet fishing, respective cities and counties have also established rules on closed fishing areas, or closed fishing periods, or restrictions on the use of multilayer gillnets.
(3) Control of Larval Fishery
Larval fishery is an important subsistence fishery in the coastal and offshore areas. Larvae are organisms at the low level of the trophic system, and forage for other fish species. Massive catch will cause imbalance of the marine ecosystem. In order to maintain healthy development of the fishery, and sustainable use of fisheries resources, effective management measures need to be imposed. The measures taken currently are as follows:
i. Establishment of total allowable catch and quota allocation to each county and city, with annual review. For 2015, the total allowable catch was set at 1,985 tons.
ii. Fishing grounds are limited to areas outside 500 meters from the coast, and cross-county/city fishing is not permitted.
iii. Every year between 1 May and 15 September, select 3 consecutive months as closed fishing season.
iv. Filling in of daily catch logbooks, and establishment of self-disciplinary management institution.
(4) Control of Flying Fish Egg Fishery
Flying fish plays both the role of predator and forage in the marine trophic chain. Reduction or loss of flying fish resources may cause the break of the marine trophic chain. Therefore, it is necessary to establish appropriate management mechanism in order to enable sustainable use of this resource, taking into account the balance between the use of fisheries resources and the conservation of marine ecology. The measures currently imposed are as follows:
i. Establishment of allowable fishing period for 2-3 months, and total allowable catch, and quota allocated to each county and city, with annual review.
ii. In 2015 the total catch was limited to 350 tons. Offloading berths were designated in designated ports, and coupling with random inspection on the quantity of catch and daily catch logbooks.
iii. Requirement of filling in landing declarations and daily catch logbooks. Items to be filled include fishing positions, quantity and area of straw mats deployed, time of deployment, time of mat retrieval, and weight of catch finally traded.
iv. Acceptance of boarding and inspection by personnel of coast guard and fisheries authorities, and acceptance of designated observers to perform at sea observation.
(5) Control of Precious Coral Fishery
Corals are classified into deep-sea precious coral and shallow sea reef coral. Products of precious coral have long been considered as important ornaments among the religious community, and tied with art and culture as well as fashion and lifestyle. Currently the target of the coral fishing vessels authorized is deep-sea precious coral. This coral has low growth rate, and once harvested or damaged, it will take long time to restore the ecology. Therefore, more attention has been given to the management of this fishery. The management measures currently in replace are as follows:
i. Shallow sea reef coral: the governments of Penghu, Pingtung, Taitung and Yilan Counties have announced prohibition of harvesting of coral in area within 12 nautical miles from the coast.
ii. Deep-sea precious coral: Fishing is limited to 5 fishing grounds outside the territorial sea of Taiwan; requirement of installation of VMS; harvesting not more than 200 kilograms of coral per vessel. Compliance with the management actions which include restrictions on vessel exit and entry at designated ports, prior application of port exit and inspection at time of port entry, monitoring of offloading and auction of catch, receiving of at-sea observers and acceptance of boarding and inspection at sea
(6) Control of Torch Light Net Fisheries
Torch light net fishery refers to the fishery which performs during night-time and catches marine animals which have the aggregating nature under light induction. Generally speaking, the brighter is the light, the larger is mass of organisms being attracted. Nevertheless, unlimited brightness of the light used will cause unnecessary competition on light brightness, wasting of energy, harmful to health, and above all, damaging coastal and offshore fisheries resources. The management measures currently taken are as follows:
i. Closed areas for torch light net fishery have been established in areas within at least 3 nautical miles from the coast. In case fisheries resources conservation areas have been established in waters between 3 and 12 nautical miles from the coast, they are also considered as closed areas for torch light net fishery.
ii. Respective counties and cities have imposed regulations on closed areas and restrictions on fishing gears for different torch light net fisheries (such as Danish seine, torch light net, stick held net, etc.)
(7) Fishery with Diving Equipment
Scuba enables divers to stay for a long period of time in reef areas catching reef fish and large size fish, and this practice is not favorable to reproduction of resources. The management measures currently taken are as follows:
i. No new fishing license will be issued to vessels for performing scuba diving fishery, except for renewal of license at time of expiry.
ii. At time of issuing of fishing license to fishing vessels by the Council of Agriculture and the respective county or city governments, the type of fishery (fisheries using hook and net gears) approved shall not include spear guns as one of the fishing gears to be used.
iii. For authorized fishing right fisheries on set nets, cage farming, and oyster farming, their fishing rafts may carry simple diving equipment, such as air bottles and buoyancy adjustment vest, for securing the poles, oyster racks, mending of nets and gears, and monitoring of the net setting at the sea bottom, while no harvesting of aquatic animals is permitted.
(8) Management of Shark Fishery
i. For sharks caught within the EEZ of Taiwan, vessels using ice to preserve their catch, are required to offload the sharks they caught with the fins naturally attached.
ii. Whale shark has the characteristics of slow growing, long maturity time, and low spawning. Any damage in whale shark resources will take long time for their restoration. Therefore, conservation of whale shark resources is imperative. Since 2008, the government has imposed measures to prohibit fishing, selling, retaining, and importing and exporting whale sharks and their products.
(9) Mackerel Fishery
Mackerel s which commonly include mackerels and scads, are straddling fish stocks. Taiwan, Japan, Korea and the Mainland China are the major users of these resources. The sea off the northeast of Taiwan, between Pengjia Islet and Diaoyutai, is the main fishing ground for Taiwan’s mackerel fishery. Most fishing vessels catch mackerels and scads by means of Danish seine. This fishing method often causes intensive fishing efforts to fisheries resources, and tends to repel other small-scale fishing vessels operating in the coastal waters. Therefore, mackerel fishing vessels are prohibited from fishing in areas within 6 nautical miles off the main island of Taiwan, and those vessels over 100 GRT are prohibited from fishing in areas within 12 nautical miles from the coast.
The sea off the northeast coast of Taiwan is not only an important fishing ground for mackerel fishery, but also an important spawning ground for mackerels. In order to maintain sustainable use of mackerel resources, special management measures have been imposed on those mackerel fishing vessels proceeding to the waters off the northeast coast of Taiwan for operations. These rules are as follows:
i. Mackerel fishing vessels proceeding to the waters off the northeast coast of Taiwan for operations are required to obtain fishing permit, and install vessel monitoring system (VSM) on board, for effective monitoring of the fishing positions of the vessels. They are required to observe the closed fishing season between every 1 June and 30 June, during which operation of mackerel fishery shall be prohibited.
ii. In order to monitor the catch in port, vessels are required to fill in and submit daily catch logbooks. Their catch may only be offloaded at designated fishing ports, with the entire catch weighed, and filling in the weight and basic information of the vessels on the catch declarations. Trading of the catch is to be made publicly in the district fishermen’s associations, by auction, price negotiations, tenders or bids.
(10) Control of Eel Fry Fishery
Eel fry fishery is an important traditional fishery of the coastal fishermen during winter season, and a source of income for their subsistence. However, in recent year, there is a severe reduction in the quantity of eel fry caught in the coastal waters of Taiwan. Taking into account of the livelihood of fishermen, and the possibility for part of the eel fry migrating upstream for growing to maturity, to ensure sustainability of eel resources, the following management measures are imposed:
i. Every year between 1 March and 31 October, catching of eel fry by any means is prohibited in areas within 3 nautical miles from the coast, areas of intertidal terrains, and estuaries, with the exception of the following:
a. Catching of eel fry in sea areas, intertidal terrains, and estuaries in Hualien and Taitung Counties.
b. For the purpose of scientific research, with the approval of the central competent authorities.
ii. During the time not prohibited for fishing, those who catch eel fry are required to comply with the National Park Law, the Wildlife Conservation Act, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, the Fisheries Act and other regulations established to govern conservation areas and closed fishing areas.
iii. Anyone who violates paragraph 1 above, will be liable to a fine of not less than NT$30,000 but not more than NT$150,000, in accordance with the Fisheries Act, article 65, paragraph 5.
(11) Research and Information Collection on Fisheries Science
Beginning from 2010, the Fisheries Agency dispatched 20 observers on board fishing vessels for conducting fishery observation at sea, as well as conducting boarding and inspection. In addition, 20 inspectors (increased to 40 persons in 2015) were dispatched to designated ports to check fishery information reported. As from 2014, additional 16 inspecting personnel were recruited to carry out analysis and verification of catch information of the coastal and offshore fisheries, to ensure collection of accurate data, so as to facilitate scientific research and implementation of fisheries management measures.
(12) Management of crab fishery
Crabs in the coastal and offshore waters of Taiwan mainly inhabit in sandy or muddy grounds in the shallow continental shelf in waters between 10 and 100 meters deep. They can be caught throughout the year, with peak season between September and November. The waters off the northwest coast of Taiwan and around Penghu are the main fishing grounds. Currently, waters in New Taipei City, Penghu County and Kaohsiung City are the main areas for crab fishery, using such fishing methods as trawl, gill-net, and pots. The main crabs targeted include Charybdis feriatus, Portunus sanguinolentus, Portunus pelagicus, Charybdis natator, and Ranina ranina.
For the sake of safe spawning of female crabs and the growth of healthy juveniles, on 1 April 2014 the Council of Agriculture announced “Catch Control Measures on Coastal and Offshore Fishing Vessels Catching Crabs”, prohibiting catching Portunus sanguinolentus, Charybdis feriatus, and Portunus pelagicus with shell span under 8 cm., Charybdis natator with shell span under 6 cm., and Ranina ranina with shell length under 6 cm. In addition, during the peak crab spawning season between every 16 August and 15 November, catching of egg carrying female crabs is prohibited, in order to allow survival of juvenile and female crabs.
In case of incident catch of crabs prohibited for catching, regardless whether live or dead, they should be released immediately to the sea, and no retention or bringing into port will be permitted. Considering in areas where bottom gill-nets are used in the fishery, and it is not easy to release on spot crabs entangled to the net, vessels are allowed to carry into port the entire set of gill-net in buckets with running water or in aerating facilities, to undergo separation at pier side. Unqualified crabs should be released to the sea within 12 hours after the vessel enters into the port.
V. Guidance on Restructuring of Traditional Fisheries
For long, fisheries have been playing the role of harvesting aquatic organisms for providing protein to the general publics, that is to say production is their objective. In recent years, people are more conscious on leisure activities. After lifting of curfew under the then martial law, people were more incline to take part in marine recreational activities. In view of the declining fisheries resources, and the increasingly stringent fisheries management, there is a need to guide traditional fisheries to undergo restructuring. The types of recreational fishery currently performed are described as follows:
(1) Sport oriented: Include at sea angling, shore side angling, beach angling, pond angling, sea cage angling, diving, and beach activities.
(2) Fishing experiencing: Include beach seine, rock traps, experiencing the life in fishing villages, touring of set-net, cage farming, overnight in fishermen’s lodging house, catching of fish and clams, etc.
(3) Eco-tourism: Whale watching, sea touring, touring of fishermen’s wharf, mangroves, lagoons, intertidal terrains, aquaculture production areas, blue highways, etc.
(4) Local delicacy: Touring of holiday fish markets, fishery products direct sales outlets, seafood specialty restaurants, specialty local delicacy of fishing villages, etc.
(5) Culture and education: Releasing of fish fry, touring of fisheries museums, marine aquariums, paintings in fishing villages, religious activities in fishing villages, etc.
VI. Enhancement of Educational Propaganda
In the work of fisheries conservation, in addition to such passive and aggressive work as preventive measures and restocking, taking into account the un-interrupting work of fisheries management, it is necessary to cultivate the concept of conservation in the mind of the general public at large, and establish a common understanding among the people. Therefore, long-term educational propaganda is needed.
To fishermen and those people who directly use fisheries resources, they should have full knowledge of the control measures on the fisheries conservation in place, and realize the reason of their implementation. Fisheries managers should provide broad publication through various meetings, broadcastings, television media, papers and articles, posters, etc., to enable the public have better understanding on the rules for general compliance in resources management. In addition, in order to enable the concept of fisheries resource conservation implanted in the mind of people, education should start from children, through classroom face-to-face words from teachers, for long-term result.
In view of the importance of educational work, the fisheries authorities have been printing various pamphlets and brochures on fisheries resources conservation for distribution at suitable places, and carrying out fisheries conservation seed teachers training camps, to enable junior high and elementary schools teachers to have the concept of fisheries conservation for educating the next generations. Every July and August, during the summer vacation, “Marine Fisheries Resources Conservation Seed Teachers Training Camp” is conducted. Between 2007 and 2012, a total of 1,084 persons were trained.
VII. Improvement of Fishing Methods
Improved fishing methods may reduce bycatch and incidental catch of marine living resources, thus preventing the wastage of resources. As such, gradual improvement of fishing methods has been carried out, including fish and shrimp separating devices on trawl nets, turtle extruding devices, tori lines to avoid incidental catch of seabirds in distant water longline fishery.
VIII. Implementation of the System of Fishing Right Fisheries
With the establishment of the regime of 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), following the entering into force of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1994, coastal States are responsible for conserving and managing the fisheries resources within their EEZ, and enjoy the rational and sustainable use of these resources.
In order to exercise the current rules as stipulated in the regulations relating to fisheries and maritime areas, and in line with the prevailing norms and trends in international fisheries management, the surrounding waters of Taiwan have been demarcated into areas suitable for performing fishing and aquaculture development, with issuance of license of fishing rights to directed, set-net or fisheries, and the fisheries are to be conducted in a responsible manner by the holders of the fishing right, thus promoting effective use and conservation of maritime areas, while achieving the goal of sustainable operations and use of fisheries resources.
IX. Eliminating Environmental Pollution of Coastal Areas
Advanced commerce and industries have accelerated pollution of the environment. While people are playing more attention on the protection of the environment on land, they always overlook the sea which is the final destination for land-based pollution. Therefore, it is necessary to have cooperative efforts from all agencies concerned, to deter and prevent further pollution of the sea and ocean, and to maintain excellent environment for fisheries resources.
To preserve the ecology of marine environment, and reduce intentional or unintentional human pollution of the ocean, thus enabling restoration of the fisheries resources in the coastal and offshore seas, apart from active part taking in environmental assessments on cases of marine-related development, the competent fisheries authorities of different levels have assisted county and city governments in deal with unexpected cases of marine pollution. In cases where the pollution is likely to affect fisheries, they have incorporated frontline local government officers and researchers, to establish channels for communication with the environment protection agency or other relevant agencies. Hopefully under the leadership of the environment protection agency, they can expeditiously deal with the pollution, tracing the source of pollution, thus reducing its harm and damage to the marine environment as well as to the marine living resources.