8 March 2020
“The Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee, the Human Rights Promotion Task Force of the Executive Yuan and the Coordination Conference for Human Trafficking Prevention have been inviting relevant ministries and agencies to convene meeting regularly. Relevant issues being addressed in such meetings have already embraced the philosophy of human rights at sea.”
London, UK / Taipei, Taiwan. Human Rights at Sea is pleased to publish the formal Taiwan Government response from the Director General of the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to the charity’s October 2019 ‘“Baseline Study on the Awareness and Application of Human Rights in Taiwan’s Fishing Industry”, as a matter of transparency and reflection of positive State engagement with the organisation.
The initial baseline report was issue in October 2019 as a consequence of the charity receiving information as to potential and asserted abuses occurring within the Taiwanese fishing fleets and associated supply chain, which were investigated and inquired about in-country by a Taiwanese national and researcher acting on behalf of Human Rights at Sea.
Acknowledging that reports can be asserted to have flaws to a greater or lesser degree, Human Rights at Sea is encouraged to have received such a positive and comprehensive engagement with the Taiwanese authorities on the human rights matters raised, noting sometimes inherent and occasional differences of opinion between stakeholders.
CEO, David Hammond Esq. commented: “This official Taiwan Government response to the charity’s October 2019 report should be viewed as a strong example of the scope, scale and transparency of a State-level response to our organisation’s work. We are grateful to Director General Chang for his considered review, and we look forward to future engagement on an independent and professional basis underpinned by continuing mutual respect.”
The charity encourages the downloading of the full and detailed report and meantime, would like to highlight some selected key responses (non-exhaustive) from the Director General of the Taiwan Fisheries Agency as the responsible competent Government Authority charged with oversight and action within the sector.
SELECTED KEY RESPONSES
- “Concerning fishing vessel accommodation, this Agency had amended “Regulations for the Issuance of Building Permit and Fishing License of Fishing Vessel,” requesting the construction of fishing vessels length overall 24 meters and above, or fishing vessel length overall less than 24 meters engaging in distant water fisheries, built after June 10th, 2020 shall be consistent provisions stipulated in ILO-C188, and the regulations on living space of the existing fishing vessels are also amended to comply with the aforementioned Convention.”
- “This Agency is now planning to establish a service center for crew members in Kaohsiung Qianzhen Fishing Port and is working with the Yilan County Government to transform the inland detention center for fishing crews from China in Nanfang’ao as a hostel for the foreign crew. In the future, the hostel there will be offering cheap accommodation for the foreign crew.”
- “According to the “Ship and Boat Equipment Regulations,” every fishing vessel must equip with sufficient life jackets by the number of people aboard, and such life jackets shall meet the standards of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. In general, life jackets are stored in cabins. In the future, this Agency will strengthen its policy advocacy, requesting vessel operators (masters) to store life jackets in places more easily accessible.”
- “With the characteristic that the operation of distant water fishing vessels requires long hours at sea, operators are the ones to handle service fee. With reference to the regulation in ILO-C188 requiring “no fees or other charges for recruitment or placement of fishers be borne directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by the fisher,” this Agency had amended “Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members” on March 20, 2019, requesting no service fee is charged for fishing crew members in the service contract.”
GOVERNMENT POSITION IN RELATION TO HUMAN RIGHTS AT SEA
The charity is pleased to read that: “The Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee, the Human Rights Promotion Task Force of the Executive Yuan and the Coordination Conference for Human Trafficking Prevention have been inviting relevant ministries and agencies to convene meeting regularly. Relevant issues being addressed in such meetings have already embraced the philosophy of human rights at sea.”
It further recognises the concerns raised in terms of evidence gathering, fairly noting that access to all interested parties to obtain balanced evidence and responses is not always possible, safely obtainable, or freely-available.
“Last, as the part of the report related to coastal fisheries is being done by interviews, it is mainly one-sided description and opportunities were not given for vessel owners involved to explain or clarify; on the other hand, as the part of the report related to distant water fishing vessels is cited from reports of specific NGOs or comment from individuals, which are lack of equity, balance and verification mechanism. Such survey research methods are easy to make cases and claims over-exaggerated or lead to misunderstandings, which would crash the moral of decent law-abiding fishery operators by unfairly damaging the reputation of Taiwanese fishery. Therefore, this Agency would like to suggest to apply appropriate sampling methods and elicit comments from different parties (States) so as to reflect the actual situation of fisheries. This Agency would like to thank Human Rights at Sea once again for its care of the rights and benefits of the foreign crew in Taiwanese fishery, and further recommendations concerned will always be welcome.”
27th February 2020 Taiwan Government Fisheries Agency Director General Chih-Sheng Chang cover letter to CEO, David Hammond Esq.
Full response from Taiwan Government to HRAS October 2019 fisheries baseline report.
A baseline human rights study of the human rights awareness, provisions, policy and protections for national and migrant fishers working in the Taiwanese coastal and distant water fleets.