EJF UNCOVERS ILLEGAL SHARK FINNING AND KILLING OF DOLPHINS AND TURTLES IN TAIWAN’S TUNA EXPORT INDUSTRY

Posted By Stop Illegal Fishing:5th Dec, 2018: Governance · Impacts of Illegal Fishing · Shark finning

Dolphins harpooned and butchered for use as bait to catch sharks; thousands of sharks stripped of their fins and thrown back into the sea to drown; vulnerable turtles killed and discarded: a catalogue of cruel, wasteful and illegal practices aboard fishing vessels linked to Taiwan has been exposed by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

In a new investigation, EJF spoke to Indonesian crew members from five longline vessels fishing in waters around the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans – all either flying a Taiwanese flag or linked to Taiwanese ownership.

On all five boats the crew reported being ordered to remove shark fins and throw the bodies overboard – a practice that is banned by Taiwan. The sharks ­– unable to swim without their fins – suffocate or bleed to death.

Some of the vessels also illegally caught and killed dolphins, which are protected under Taiwanese law. Crew aboard one vessel were ordered to harpoon dolphins riding the bow wave: once harpooned, the animals were dragged alongside until they were exhausted or dead; those still showing signs of life were crudely electrocuted using a car battery. The dolphins were then butchered, and the meat used as shark bait.

Around 300 dolphins were killed in this way on each of the vessel’s three-month trips, according to the crew.

“It is easy to catch [dolphins]. We could kill maybe six to nine per day. But if we had ten dolphins already on deck and there were still more at the bow, we would hunt them until they were all caught,” one crewmember told EJF.

Crew members also reported catching hundreds of sharks every day: these included the illegal capture of juveniles, which would be used for bait, alongside landing vulnerable species such as smooth hammerhead and bigeye thresher sharks.

Crucially, inspections by the Taiwanese Fisheries Agency were ineffective and easily evaded, claim the crew. Once in port, crew simply put the shark fins at the bottom of the freezers under a layer of fish so they were hidden from view, to be sold in the early hours of the morning.

“We would unload in the middle of the night at 3 a.m., pull the fins out and sell them. Captain would often order us to hurry when we were unloading the fins,” said a crewmember.

Aboard another vessel, which was under Taiwanese ownership but flying a Panamanian flag, the crew reported illegally killing turtles and dolphins. On one occasion a false killer whale was caught – an oceanic dolphin listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Rather than releasing it, as required under Panamanian law, the Taiwanese foreman ordered it to be brought on board and decapitated, so its teeth could be used to make necklaces.

As well as the widespread abuse of marine species, migrant crew on four of the five vessels reported human rights violations, ranging from physical abuse to debt bondage.

EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent, commented: “Killing dolphins to catch sharks, this is madness: rogue Taiwanese fishing vessels are ripping the heart out of our oceans. These illegal, unsustainable and brutally cruel activities are being enabled by the Taiwanese authorities’ failure to act. Only three months ago EJF was reporting gross human rights violations aboard Taiwanese vessels, now we have exposed the shocking illegal exploitation of wildlife by the same fleet. Enough is enough. Taiwan can be a global leader on fisheries governance: it has the finance, technology and opportunity to end these abuses and create legal, sustainable and ethical fisheries.”

“Taiwan must also create a simple and effective action plan to protect sharks. The handful of vessels we investigated caught tens of thousands of sharks – illegally discarding the bodies to make space for more. Multiply that by Taiwan’s large fishing fleet and the scale of exploitation of the marine ecosystem is vast. Action needs to be taken to stop the slaughter,” Trent added.

EJF is calling for Taiwan to sign up to the ten principles for fisheries transparency and for immediate action to be taken to investigate and prosecute vessels and companies alleged to be involved in illegal fishing and human rights abuses.

Source: EJF

Recent Posts

Tanzania convicts captain, owner and agent of BUAH NAGA NO 1 for unlawful shark finning

The Taiwanese Captain of Malaysian long liner BUAH NAGA NO 1, Mr Han...

Read More...

We can’t stop fish imports from China, Treasury now tells Kenyans

The National Treasury has defended the importation of fish from China for local...

Read More...

Does West Africa Benefit from Foreign Trawling?

Coastal and island countries are increasingly looking to the sea to provide food...

Read More...

Tanzania: Maritime Institute to Build Sh7bn College in Mkuranga

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania will soon start to produce more experts on...

Read More...

SIF News Categories

The Issues

One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

Find Out More...

Our Approach

Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

Read More...

Our Initiatives

Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

Find Out More...

Recent Posts

Tanzania convicts captain, owner and agent of BUAH NAGA NO 1 for unlawful shark finning

The Taiwanese Captain of Malaysian long liner BUAH NAGA NO 1, Mr Han...

Read More...

We can’t stop fish imports from China, Treasury now tells Kenyans

The National Treasury has defended the importation of fish from China for local...

Read More...

Does West Africa Benefit from Foreign Trawling?

Coastal and island countries are increasingly looking to the sea to provide food...

Read More...