TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Ocean ecology surrounding Taiwan is threatened by overfishing, a new report warns.
The Taiwan Environmental Information Association report, which says the reduced presence of sea life shows that all isn't well with the local marine ecosystem, urges the government to designate protected marine areas.
Data from the Taiwan's Fishery Agency indicate that the annual catch from coastal fisheries last year decreased 42.69 percent compared to 2001's catch.
"The dwindling number of edible fish and exhaustion of marine stocks has created a vicious circle in which fishermen spent more time and energy on the job with no proportionate increase in catches," TEIA Secretary-General Chen Juei-pin said in a Taiwan Today report.
"This development has grave implication(s) for the country's ecology, fisheries and tourism. We urge the government to designate protected marine areas and improve enforcement of protection laws."
TEIA pointed to a 2003 International Union Conservation of Nature agreement to set aside 12 percent of oceans worldwide as marine reserves. But less than 6 percent of Taiwan's surrounding seas are protected by regulations, the association says.
Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network East Asia said that a scarcity of indicator fish species and edible invertebrate species, such as sea urchins, surrounding the reefs signals an exhaustion of marine resources caused by overfishing.
Further out at sea, Taiwan is the largest distant water fishing operator in the Western and Central Pacific, providing 60 percent of the world's tuna, Greenpeace says. This region, a major Taiwanese fishing ground, is now experiencing a serious tuna crisis, Greenpeace says, with species such as the big-eye tuna, yellow-fin tuna and albacore now listed as vulnerable and near-threatened.
A recent Greenpeace report notes that 1,953 vessels were registered under Taiwan's flag, accounting for 30 percent of total distant water fishing vessels in the region.
Greenpeace says that 75 percent of the nearly $388 million spent by the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to subsidize Taiwan's distant water fishing fleet from 2002 to 2010 was earmarked for "enhancing the fishing capacity."
"The Fisheries Agency neglects the reality of resource depletion. It continues to use taxpayers' money to subsidize the distant water fishing industry, which makes it an accomplice in the destruction of tuna," Greenpeace stated in its report.
Greenpeace has called for the Fisheries Agency to adopt "real conservation measures to achieve sustainable fisheries," and to establish more marine reserves in the Pacific Ocean.