Cablegate: Taiwan's Tuna Association Blames Taiwan and Japan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Taiwan's Tuna Association Blames Taiwan and Japan
Governments for Reduction in Big-Eye Quota

1. Responding to reductions in Taiwan's Atlantic big-eye
tuna quota adopted by the International Commission for the
Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT)on 18 November, Edward
Huang, Secretary-General of the Taiwan Deep Sea Tuna Boat
owners and Exporters Association (TTA), complained that the
reduction stemmed from Taiwan's failure to recognize its
responsibility to control Taiwan-owned vessels flying flags
of convenience, coupled with Japan's desire to enable
Japan's Atlantic tuna fleet to survive in an ever more
competitive market. He said that even though the
restrictions would allow for fifteen ships to continue
operating in the Atlantic next year, it was likely that his
membership would not send any ships to the Atlantic in 2006.
End Summary.

2. Huang complained that his membership, which he says
complies with all existing regulations, is being punished
for the misbehavior of the convenience-flagged vessels,
largely because Taiwan's government has failed to develop
any mechanism to deal with the convenience-flagged vessels.
Despite recent announcement by Taiwan's Council of
Agriculture (COA) that the government would take steps to
control the convenience-flagged vessels, COA officials as
recently as June, 2004 stated that Taiwan's government has
no responsibility to regulate vessels flagged in other
countries, nor does Taiwan law provide them the authority to
do so. The problem of convenience-flagged vessels in the
Tuna industry has long been known to Taiwan officials.
Huang said that the government's failure to deal with the
problem in a timely fashion left Taiwan in an untenable
position at the recent ICCAT meetings.

3. Local fishery officials admitted that Taiwan currently
lacks appropriate regulations to govern the convenience-
flagged vessels. Premier Frank Hsieh has directed COA
officials to determine the composition of the Taiwan-owned,
convenience-flagged fleet and to devise a method for
regulating it. The DPP's LY caucus will initiate
legislation amending the current fishery law to more
efficiently manage convenience-flagged vessels. The fishery
officials emphasized in a press conference that the
administration would proceed with plans to scrap 97 deep sea
fishing vessels in 2006, after it has completed the
scheduled destruction of 63 fishing vessels in 2005.

4. According to Huang, Japan targeted Taiwan at the ICCAT
meetings primarily because Taiwan is a Cooperating Non-
Voting Fishing Entity, and is basically defenseless at the
meetings. He said that the convenience-flagged vessels of
South Korea and various EU members were not targeted because
their governments are in a position to defend their fleets.
The Taipei Times, generally very supportive of the Chen
Administration, also criticized the Administration for its
failure to deal with the flag of convenience problem in a
timely fashion, and for failing to defend those Taiwan
fisherman who engage in legal fishing activities. The
Taipei Times went on to say that Taiwan's government was
sacrificing the interests of Taiwan's fishermen in order to
maintain a good overall relationship with Japan.

5. Huang went on to question Japanese motives for reducing
fishing levels in the Atlantic. He said that their real
motive is to reduce competitive pressure on the Japanese
fleet, which he described as inefficient and unable to turn
a profit at current market prices. He said Japan would
welcome a rise in prices resulting from a reduction in
supply, as the price rise would enable marginal Japanese
vessels to remain in business. Huang said that in his
opinion, the root cause of over fishing is unrelenting
Japanese demand and that reduction of Taiwan's quota and
control of Taiwan-owned, convenience-flagged vessels would
have little lasting impact, as other countries with large
numbers of convenience-flagged vessels, notably Spain and
South Korea, would move quickly to fill the void as long as
demand remains high.

6. In addition to reducing quotas, ICCAT also imposed
observer and inspection requirements which would force
vessels in Taiwan's Atlantic tuna fleet to return to their
servicing ports in South Africa at least once every three
months, thus reducing the amount of time spent fishing to
only eight months per year. For the fifteen vessels that
would be allowed to fish for big-eye in the Atlantic in
2006, this restriction would make it unlikely that the
vessels could make a profit. Additionally, the twenty
vessels which ICCAT's ruling would allow to fish for yellow
fin tuna would be hard-pressed to meet rules dealing with
the by-catch in big eye tuna. In light of this, TTA is
likely to forgo fishing in the Atlantic altogether in 2006.

7. In addition to complaints about Taiwan's failure to
regulate convenience-flagged vessels, TTA says that the
proposed government subsidies to the Atlantic fleet are
inadequate. According to Huang, the subsidies,
approximately USD 54,000 per vessel for suspending
operations for one year or USD 540,000 for the
decommissioning and destruction of a vessel would not come
close to mitigating the economic impact on the fishermen.
He said that the $54,000 would not cover the cost of sailing
the vessels back to Taiwan from their current anchorage in
South Africa, and the $540,000 would not cover the cost of
the boat, let alone address the loss of income.

8. Huang also expressed fear that the Japanese would try to
take a similar approach with regard to Pacific Fisheries.
However, due to the fact that Taiwan is a voting member in
the Pacific association, he said that TTA would be better
able to defend itself in the event that Taiwan is again
singled out for quota reductions. He said that Japan is
likely to again use conservation issues as a means to
manipulate the industry to protect Japan's tuna fleet.

9. Comment. TTA's main complaint is that Taiwan's
government is punishing legitimate fishermen because of its
inability or unwillingness to tackle the problem of
convenience-flagged vessels. The problem has been ignored
for many years. AIT/K first reported on the issue in fall
of 1997. Taiwan-owned convenience-flagged vessels generally
fly the flags of Cambodia, Mongolia, Equatorial Guinea, and
Bolivia, none of which take any measures to regulate fishing
vessels. Registration can generally be accomplished on
line, with Mongolia guaranteeing registration within one
hour of application. Such registration policies make it
difficult for any government to keep track of registration
of vessels by its citizens. Taiwan's situation is further
complicated by its lack of diplomatic standing, which makes
it difficult for Taiwan to induce these countries to
regulate "their" fleets. It will be difficult for Taiwan's
current administration to get legislation passed to enable
them to deal with these nominally foreign vessels. Given
all of this, it is likely that Taiwan-flagged vessels will
continue to be forced out of the market. End Comment.



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