Taiwan fishing industry out of control: Greenpeace

Taipei (AFP) - Environment advocacy group Greenpeace on Thursday (April 14) said Taiwan's fishing industry was "out of control", with shark finning still rampant as well as labour and human rights abuses.

Taiwan has one of the world's biggest tuna fishing fleets and the new Greenpeace investigation is just the latest criticism of its practices.

The European Commission warned Taiwan last October that it would face economic sanctions if it did not tackle illegal fishing within six months.

The Greenpeace report comes as that time period is running out.

"These investigations paint a comprehensive picture of an industry in crisis," Yen Ning, campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said.

"Despite talking the talk, Taiwan's Fisheries Agency appears incapable of monitoring the out-of-control tuna industry," Yen said.

"Our investigations reveal devastating impacts on marine life and people's lives." The report is a result of a year-long probe into Taiwan's distant water tuna fisheries.

Crew on Taiwanese vessels - which include as many as 160,000 migrant workers - endure "horrendous" working conditions and physical abuse, the report found, as well as withheld payments and exploitation by recruitment agents.

And despite warnings against illegal shark fishing, Greenpeace said its investigation discovered 16 cases of shark finning in just one Taiwanese port over a three-month period.

The Fisheries Agency - the government division overseeing the industry - did not have an immediate response to Greenpeace's allegations.

Legislation passed in 2012 requires fishermen to ship back entire shark carcasses, preventing them from just slicing off the fin - a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.

But Greenpeace said in September it had discovered a haul of illegal shark fins onboard a Taiwanese ship near Papua New Guinea.

At that time the Fisheries Agency rebuked Greenpeace for boarding a Taiwanese vessel without permission from the government, but promised it would investigate claims the ship was fishing illegally.