Taiwan is a major fishing country with distant water fishing boats operating across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. It exports NT$28 billion (US$944 million) worth of distant water fishing products annually. In order to improve the labor environment in the fishery industry, provide appropriate care for migrant maritime workers, and demonstrate Taiwan's concrete commitment to safeguard and respect human rights, the government is advancing an action plan for human rights in the fishery industry. This plan will tackle the issue by improving fishing crew rights, onboard facilities and onshore facilities. It will provide all workers in the fishery industry a favorable, safe and dignified working environment that will ensure the rights and interests of migrant fishing workers and promote sustainable fishing operations.
Seven main strategies
■ Enforce proper working conditions: Raise the monthly minimum wage and require wages to be paid directly to crew members. Require auxiliary tech tools to be installed on fishing vessels to verify man-hours.
■ Improve living conditions and social protections: Limit the time fishing vessels can continuously spend at sea. Increase accidental insurance coverage and newly offer a medical insurance plan. Build or remodel fishing vessels so that living spaces comply with international fishery conventions, and retire old vessels that do not comply. Require crew members to wear life jackets when working on deck. Reward ships that share or install onboard Wi-Fi for workers. Build onshore rest and lodging facilities for fishing crews.
■ Strengthen intermediary management: Increase the frequency of inspection of domestic employment agents. Suspend and punish agents who are unable to account for the whereabouts of a certain proportion of crew workers.
■ Upgrade monitoring capabilities: Inspect 100% of distant water fishing vessels within the first year of the plan and 50% in every subsequent year. Promote installation of closed-circuit television monitoring. Establish cooperative mechanisms to crack down on maritime crime and prevent human trafficking.
■ Enhance oversight of flag of convenience fishing vessels: Conduct joint inspections and interviews of foreign-flagged fishing vessels that enter Taiwan. Prohibit human traffickers from operating under flags of convenience and ban them from entering Taiwan's ports.
■ Establish and deepen international cooperation: Work with crew members' countries of origin to establish cooperative mechanisms regarding fishing crew affairs. Collaborate and exchange ideas on rights issues with major market countries such as the U.S. and EU.
■ Build partnerships for the common good: Raise awareness of sustainable fishing and labor rights protections among industry operators and within four years lead 500 vessel operators to commit to corporate social responsibility.