By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter
Many migrant workers on Taiwanese fishing ships have experienced exploitation, and have been asked to catch dolphins and sharks, an alliance of civic groups said yesterday, demanding that the government take action to stop illegal practices in the fishing industry.
The Environmental Justice Foundation from August 2018 to November last year interviewed 71 migrant fishers working on 62 vessels as part of an eight-minute documentary, foundation senior campaigner in Taiwan Chiu Shao-chi （邱劭琪） said.
Taiwan’s distant-water fishing vessels constitute one of the world’s largest fleets and hire more than 22,000 migrant workers, mostly from Indonesia, but human trafficking, violence and exploitation are prevalent in the industry, the documentary showed.
An Indonesia fisher named Supri said that he was locked in a bait freezer for 15 minutes by a Taiwanese captain.
The captain even asked another fisher to electrocute him with a gun used to kill fish, Supri said, adding that the captain appeared to delight in abusing workers.
Supri worked on the vessel from December 2018 to March last year, when he returned to Indonesia, Chiu said.
Among the interviewees, 92 percent said that their wages had been held back by their employer, 82 percent said they were overworked, 34 percent said they experienced verbal abuse, 24 percent said they experienced physical violence and 18 percent said they were not paid the minimum monthly wage of US$450, foundation data showed.
Some also reported illegal practices, such as catching dolphins and using their blood to hunt sharks.
Some vessels caught up to 150 sharks per day and concealed the fins by hiding them under the rest of the catch in the freezer, the documentary showed.
In June last year, the government hailed the nation’s removal from the EU’s list of uncooperative nations in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, but the government cannot afford to relax, Greenpeace Taiwan campaigner Pearl Chen （陳珮瑜） said.
The alliance urged the government to protect migrant fishers under the Labor Standards Act （勞動基準法） and to abolish regulations covering the overseas employment of foreign crew members.
The government should dispatch more observers to inspect distant-water fishing vessels, and establish an agency to combat illegal fishing practices and human trafficking, it added.