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COA stresses tuna festival not related to quota cut

2005-11-23 / CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY /

Pingtung county's annual Black Tuna Festival (黑鮪魚季) had nothing to do with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna's (ICCAT) slashing the annual quota for Taiwan's bigeye tuna catch for next year, Council of Agriculture Vice Chairman Lee Chien-chuan (李健全) said yesterday.
Lee made the remarks while answering questions from lawmakers after giving a report at a legislative committee on the recent decision by the ICCAT to reduce Taiwan's quota by almost 70 percent pursuant to a request by Japan, which accused Taiwan fishing vessels of poaching and overfishing in international water.

In the face of the penalty, lawmakers expressed concerns whether the festival, held every year in May at Tungkung in southern Pingtung county since 2000, might be misinterpreted by the international community, and whether it added to the impetus of the ICCAT in some way to sanction Taiwan fishermen.

Denying that there was a link between the festival and the ICCAT's move, Lee said that the ICCAT is targeting bigeye tuna, rather than bluefin tuna which the festival celebrates.

According to Lee, two-thirds of bluefin tuna caught by Taiwan fishing boats are for local consumption, while the rest is exported to Japan.

Bluefin tuna is very popular and is often sold at a premium price in the domestic market after the government initiated the festival five years ago, Lee said, adding that Taiwan consumers' love for sashimi made from the fish has significantly helped local farmers increase their incomes despite the fact that Taiwan's bluefin tuna catches have been declining each year.

Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) and Tseng Tsang-teng blamed the government for its lax management of Taiwan's deep sea fishing boats, arguing that the government has long ignored the issue.