Fishermen stage protests in Taipei over crackdown

TAIPEI: Fishermen and their families took to the streets in Taiwan against what they said was an unfair crackdown on the industry which has been accused of illegal practices and human rights abuses.

Yesterday’s rally by coastal and long-haul fishermen in the capital Taipei is the latest challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen, who has already faced major protests by disgruntled military veterans and labour unions over pension and other reforms.

It comes ahead of local elections on Nov 24, seen as a baromater for Tsai’s two years in office.

Over a thousand people gathered outside the agriculture council building, blowing horns and throwing paper money before marching to the legislative building. Many had travelled up from the south of Taiwan where the industry is concentrated.

“I understand the need for sustainability, but government enforcement has been too tough and the fines too high,” said one protester who works on a deep-sea fishing boat and gave his surname as Tsai, adding his earnings have dropped considerably since new rules were introduced.

Taiwan’s billion-dollar fishing industry, which has one of the largest longline tuna fleets in the world, traditionally supports Ing-wen’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But in the past three years, it has been targeted by domestic and international agencies over poor regulation and conditions.

Tsai Bao-Hsin, head of the Liuchiu Fishermen Association of coastal fishing fleet owners, said catches are shrinking.

He accused the government of kowtowing to EU demands.

Wang Shin-chan, head of the Fishermen Self-Help Association, said penalties by Taiwan’s fisheries agency were too high. — AFP

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