Residents on the outlying island of Matsu opposed the easing of fishing regulations to allow fishing boats a wider area of operation near the archipelago, during a meeting with local government and Fisheries Agency officials Friday.
The meeting, convened by Fisheries Agency Director-General Chen Tian-shou (陳添壽), was held to solicit opinions from the public on a proposal to ease fishing regulations in waters near Matsu. It was attended by local fishermen, residents and county councilors.
In 2003, the Fisheries Agency introduced a regulation that allowed Taiwanese fishing boats with Chinese crew members to only operate in waters a minimum of 12 nautical miles from Taiwan proper and its outlying islands.
However, in response to calls from local fishermen, that regulation was relaxed for those operating in waters near Kinmen and Matsu in 2012. As a result, Taiwanese fishing boats with Chinese crew are allowed to operate in waters 1 km from the islands.
The agency is now mulling whether to further reduce the distance to 50 meters.
However, the proposal, has met strong opposition from Matsu residents.
During the meeting, residents from Beigan, one of the two major islands in Lienchiang County, expressed concern that expanding the area in which fishing boats are allowed to operate will deplete fishing resources and have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystem.
Fishing resources in Matsu have already decreased considerably because many fishing boats ignore the regulation and fish in waters within 1 km of the islands.
Lienchiang Councilor Chou Jui-kuo (周瑞國) also voiced opposition to the proposal, calling on law enforcement authorities to step up patrols to combat illegal fishing.
Chen said that environmental protection and fishermen’s rights will be taken into account before a final decision is made.
He also said the agency would continue its efforts to evaluate whether it would be beneficial to ease existing regulations.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel