Bigeye tuna caught by a Taiwanese longliner. (Photo: Greenpeace/Paul Hilton)
Taiwanese boats hire armed guards to fish for tuna
Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
Taiwanese fishing boats are said to be catching bigeye tunas off the pirate-infested waters of the coast of Somalia and sending them to Japanese markets, bringing retail prices down.
In order to fish in these waters, the Taiwanese boats hired armed guards with automatic weapons. The cost for armed guards for one boat is high, but the catches are so plentiful that fishers are still making a profit.
In contrast, domestic legal provisions prohibit Japanese fishing boats from employing the same kind of protection. As tuna prices drop, Japanese fishers are left at an extra disadvantage, The Asahi Shimbun reports.
The average wholesale price of frozen bigeye tuna for the August-October period was between USD 10.8 and USD 11.4 per kg -- about 15 per cent lower year-on-year.
Officials of Chuo Gyorui Co, a wholesale company at Tsukiji, say that bigeye tuna prices began falling around May and had dropped by about 30 per cent by early June – precisely because of the huge volume of large tuna caught off the coast of Somalia by Taiwanese boats, according to the Japanese newspaper.
Catch certificates for imported tuna submitted to the Fisheries Agency state that of the approximately 24,000 tonnes of bigeye tuna imported from Taiwan in the first six months of 2012, 13,400 tonnes came from the Indian Ocean. Taiwanese imports increased by about 8,000 tonnes year-on-year and made up about half of all imports.
According to Foreign Ministry officials, there were 237 acts of piracy -- the highest ever – in 2011. There have still been 70 cases of piracy so far in 2012.
Officials with Japan's tuna fishing cooperative have heard from those connected with Taiwanese fishing boats that security details have been hired in Sri Lanka to deal with the pirate attacks. And thanks to the armed guards’ often successful attempts to scare the pirates off, there has been an increase in the number of Taiwanese fishing vessels operating in those waters.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace’s largest vessel, the Esperanza, docked at Keelung Harbour in Taiwan early this month as part of Greenpeace’s public ocean protection campaign. The plan is to educate the public about the dangers of overfishing and the risks of fish extinction, Taipei Times reports.
“About 60 per cent of the world’s tuna catch comes from the west-central Pacific, and Taiwan’s tuna fishing vessels play an important role in the region — with 53 large fishing vessels invested in or registered by fishermen, and nearly 1,600 longline fishing vessels in the region,” Greenpeace Taiwan’s oceans campaigner Yen Ning said.
By Natalia Real