Taiwan: Work recently has been completed remodelling three fishing ports as part of the initial phase of the government Fisheries Agency’s programme to improve public perception of Taiwan’s important fishing industry.
The programme calls for traditional fishing ports to be renovated and upgraded into modern fishing harbours with dedicated berths for yachts and other marina facilities to promote local tourism, along with other improved facilities to support the local fishing industry.
Originally announced by Taiwan’s President Ma Ying Jeou as an election promise, the Fisheries Agency has taken over implementation of the fishing port modernisation policy.
The agency selected three fishing ports initially for the programme – Badouzi Fishing Port in Leelung in northern Taiwan, Wushi Fishing Port in Yilan, northeast Taiwan, and Anping Fishing Port in Tainan, southern Taiwan.
Work transforming the fishing ports, including construction of floating docks, was completed last year. A yachting marina was opened in each of the three fishing ports initially while work upgrading the fishing boat berths was completed later in the year.
Transformation of the first three fishing ports into modern, multifunctional harbours serving the fishing industry and marine leisure industry comes at a time when Taiwan’s fishing fleet is facing mixed fortunes.
The purse seining and squid jiggling fleets are operating profitably, while the tuna longline fishing fleet has experienced a sharp contraction in size in recent years as the government supports efforts to reduce Taiwan’s number of longline vessels.
Coastal and offshore fishing boat operators, meanwhile, are facing smaller fish stocks due to the large number of fishing boats operating in Taiwanese waters.
“The situation of the distant waters fishing fleet is not so good recently as fuel costs are higher. Also, most tuna caught by longliners is exported to Japan and the yen has been down about 20% for the past year so earnings from longliner fishing are down dramatically and tuna prices are still low,” commented David Chang, president of the Overseas Fisheries Development Council of the Republic of China.
Most of Taiwan’s distant waters fishing fleet is based at Chien Cheng Harbour in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.
“Some fishing vessels are remaining in port. It depends on each company,” Mr Chang said. “Some choose to rest their vessels in port while others choose to operate them as they worry banks will ask questions if there is no revenue. Also, we estimate that 10 to 20 distant waters vessels have been sold in the past two years.
“At the worst point 80 to 90 large scale longline vessels stayed in port from May to August in 2013. But now the situation has improved a little as big eye tuna prices are a little higher, but no one is sure if the Japanese market can support these prices.”
In 2012 Taiwan’s total fisheries production rose 2.7% to reach 1.26 million metric tons (mt) compared with 1.22 million mt the previous year. Total fisheries production value remained unchanged in 2012 at NT$106 billion compared with the previous year despite the higher tonnage landed.
According to Taiwan’s Fisheries Administration, the distant waters catch accounted for 58% of total fisheries production by volume in 2012 and 47% by value.
The total tuna longline catch in 2012 was 223,000mt, up 3% compared with the previous year while Taiwan’s tuna purse seiners caught 201,000mt, registering a 14.1% increase compared with 2011.
“Most of the longline tuna catch is either landed at Shimizu Port in Japan or transshipped on the high seas or in the EEZ of the nation and then carried to Shimizu, near Tokyo, and from there distributed to fish markets around Japan,” Mr Chang explained.
Taiwan has one of the world’s largest tuna longline fishing fleets, boasting more than 300 large size longliners over 24 metres in length and weighing over 100 dwt each.
“Taiwan is one of the top three tuna longline fishing boat operators. Japan’s longline fleet has decreased, so has Taiwan’s from 600 boats down to over 300 now,” Mr Chang said. “We reduced dramatically as the government had a longline boat buy back scheme so that our longline fleet could become commensurate with our tuna fishing programme. Since 2005 our longline fleet has been cut by at least 30% to 40% in the number of vessels.”
In addition to large scale tuna longline fishing vessels, Taiwan has a large number of small tuna longline vessels, currently more than 1,000 boats which are based mostly in Tong Kong Fishing Harbour in Pitung County in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, and several other nearby fishing ports.
“These are our headache as their management is not like large longline vessels managed by companies which have their own company rules and regulations,” Mr Chang said. “Small scale tuna longline boats are managed by the owner who is usually captain of the vessel. Their education level is not so high and they have language problems in overseas fishing waters and fishing ports, so it’s a challenge for them.”
Small tuna longline vessels are run as a family business with the owner’s son or another male relative taking over the vessel following the owner’s retirement at around 50 to 55 years of age.
The new owner typically does not speak English or Japanese either, Mr Chang pointed out. This can cause difficulties as the crew are usually Vietnamese, Indonesian or mainland Chinese, the latter being preferred for linguistic reasons though wages for mainland fishing crew are relatively high.
The 2012 increase in fisheries output was mainly due to the higher distant waters’ tuna catch, the improved coastal waters catch and a rise in inland aquaculture production while, marine culture output and the offshore fishing catch declined during the year.
Taiwan’s total distant waters fishing catch reached 727,000mt in 2012, up 3.5% from 702,000mt the previous year.
Offshore fisheries production fell to 148,000mt in 2012, down from 164,000mt the previous year, while coastal fisheries production rose 17.5% to 33,000mt, up from 28,000mt in 2011.
Ten species account for about 75% of Taiwan’s total fisheries production. Skipjack is the largest single species with 182,000mt caught in 2012, accounting for 14.5% of Taiwan’s total fishery production. Saury is the second largest species with 162,000mt landed in 2012, accounting for 13% of the total catch.
Squid are third with 98,000mt caught in 2012, representing 8% of total fisheries production.
“Market prices are good for squid but the size of the catch is going down a little,” Mr Chang commented. “Our squid jiggers catch mostly Argentinian squid and Pacific saury. From January to June they go to Argentina for squid and then they go to the North Pacific from July to November for saury.”
Other important marine capture species are mackerel with 70,000mt caught in 2012, representing 5.5% of total fisheries production, followed by 64,500mt of bigeye tuna, accounting for 5% of total output.
In addition some 61,000mt of yellowfin tuna was caught in 2012, representing 5% of total fisheries output, followed by 49,000mt of longfin tuna, representing 4% of Taiwan’s total fish production.
“Taiwan’s purse seiner fleet is doing OK – prices are good, the catch is good and the US Dollar exchange rate is stable,” Mr Chang commented. “Most of these fish are caught in the western Pacific where Party of Nauru Agreement (PNA) countries are located.
“Taiwan has bilateral fishing agreements with six of them – Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and the Solomon Islands. Also, we are negotiating with the Marshal Islands now.”
Transshipment of tuna caught by purse seiners is forbidden on the high sea and must be carried out in a PNA country port. From there the tuna are transported frozen to Thailand for canning or to other canning ports including General Santos in the Philippines and ports in Shandong Province, China, where tuna canning is growing.
Established over 20 years ago by the Fisheries Agency (formerly the Fishery Department) of the Council of Agriculture under Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, the Overseas Fisheries Development Council of the Republic of China (OFDC) remains a semi-government organisation, though legally a private agency, with 50% of funding from the government and the other 50% from Taiwan’s fishing industry.
OFDC’s role today is to support local provinces’ fishing activities around Taiwan’s coastline and to provide support to fishing boat crews detained due to alleged violation of fishing regulations.
“We also support fishery agencies with the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS),” Mr Chang said. “We are a monitoring centre and a statistics centre for purse seiners, squid jiggers and tuna longline fishing vessels. We also implement the observer programme as the tuna IMO requires 5% boat coverage. We train observers and send them on fishing boats in cooperation with the Fisheries Agency.
“Also, our council has information publications that we send to fishermen’s associations to distribute information about tuna IMO compliance. We also organise workshops to educate about the consequences of illegal fishing.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan has 326,000 fishermen of whom 241,000 are full-time and 85,000 part time, according to the Fisheries Agency. Some 15,840 fishermen are engaged in distant waters fishing while 54,840 fishermen are engaged in offshore fishery and 157,410 fishermen in coastal fishery.
In addition, a further 21,230 fishermen are employed in marine culture, 10,310 fishermen in inland fishing, and 66,320 fishermen are engaged in inland aquaculture.
According to the Fisheries Agency, some 23,159 fishing boats were registered in 2012, a decrease of 177 vessels compared with the previous year. Total fishing boat tonnage in 2012 reached 620,000 tons, showing a decrease of 2,110 tons compared with the previous year.
The number of new built fishing boats in 2012 was 195 amounting to 24,428 tons, compared with 256 fishing boats built in the previous year.
The number of motorised fishing boats was 12,276 in 2012, down 19 compared with the previous year. In addition the number of motor-based rafts in 2012 was 10,210, down 125 units year-on-year.
“Coastal fishing is not so good now. Marine resources are declining and there are too many fishing vessels – there are over 12,000 motorised fishing boats and over 10,000 rafts,” Mr Chang remarked.
“There’s over 22,000 fishing boats and rafts, but our coastline is not long and the marine area is limited. There are many vessels and the resources decline, so we encourage coastal fishermen to transfer to recreational fishing activities.
“Also, the government is developing marine protection areas which cover about 20% of our coastal waters.”
Tilapia, milk fish and hard clams are Taiwan’s three largest aquaculture products.
Some 73,000mt of tilapia were grown in 2012, representing 6% of the total output, followed by 72,000mt of milkfish, accounting for almost 6% of output.
Hard clam output was 63,000mt in 2012, representing 5% of total fisheries output in tonnage terms.
Inland aquaculture is much larger than marine culture in output. This trend appears likely to continue in future. Inland aquaculture output grew 9.25% in 2012 to reach 317,500mt, while marine culture fell 20% from 38,100mt to 30,400mt during the same period.
“Marine culture is about 30,000mt while inland brackish water culture is about 167,000mt, so it’s much bigger and includes milk fish and grouper,” Mr Chang said. “We export live inland raised fish to China for the past five years under the Economic Cooperation Agreement between Taiwan and China as Chinese people like live fish.
“We have developed carriers to carry live grouper to China where they can be unloaded at 10 ports in China. It’s a big increase in value and it’s a big help for aquaculture.”
In addition to brackish water production, Taiwanese fish farmers produced 149,600mt of fresh water fisheries products in 2012, an increase of 7% compared with the previous year. Products include freshwater clams of which 15,000mt were produced, equivalent to 1.2% of Taiwan’s total fisheries output for the year.