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China; Taiwan: Agreement on Fishing Cooperation Discussed

(Sept. 21, 2009) The Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture of Taiwan's Executive Yuan (Cabinet) announced on September 14, 2009, that it had reached consensus with mainland China's Fisheries Council on recommending that a fishing cooperation agreement be signed between Taiwan and China through their representative bodies for handling cross-strait ties: Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. Maritime safety, fishing resources' conservation, and increased bilateral exchanges would be among the subjects covered by the agreement. In the past, a number of fishing disputes have arisen between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait because of the extensive overlap in the sea areas in which their fishermen operate, but there has been no institutionalized, formal channel to allow resolution of such disputes and other cross-Strait fishing-related issues. (Taipei, Beijing to Ink Pact on Fishery Cooperation, TAIWAN TODAY, Sept. 15, 2009, available at [citing to the COMMERCIAL TIMES].)

During discussions held from September 5-12, the two sides reached consensus on a broad range of issues, such as establishing a dispute-resolution mechanism, a system for aiding ships in distress, and an information exchange mechanism for the timely correction of illegal practices and increasing “mutually beneficial and complementary” exchanges. They also agreed in future to more strictly enforce laws prohibiting certain fishing practices such as electrocution, poisoning, and blasting of fish and to more tightly control fishing techniques that harm the environment. (Id.)

The two sides failed to reach consensus on the issue of protecting fishery resources. Mainland China requested that Taiwan impose fishing moratoria to allow depleted fish stocks to be replenished; Taiwan responded that while the fishing authorities have tried to encourage the practice, and it is legally binding in some sea areas, it is not possible at present to implement “the same kind of all-encompassing fishing moratoriums that are found on the mainland.” (Id.) Taiwan, for its part, objected to the mainland fishermen's practice of trawl net fishing because it results in “extensive ecological harm.” The mainland China side foresaw no short-term solution to this issue, but indicated measures would be taken to reduce the practice. (Id.)