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Taiwan skippers hail pact and jump the gun

Kyodo

Even though the new Japan-Taiwan fishing treaty didn’t come into force until Friday, some Taiwanese trawlers landed their first catch Thursday.

Lin Hsin-chuan, secretary general of the Association of Longline Fishing, said the Tiaoyutai Islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are traditional fishing grounds for Taiwan. The Japan-controlled Senkakus are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

“My father fished there and I fished there when I was young,” Lin said. “I don’t care who owns the Tiaoyutais as long as we can continue to fish.”

Lin Yue-ying, executive secretary general of the Suao Fishermen’s Association, said its boats have entered areas subject to the agreement since April, when the fishing season began.

Lin’s association represents some 1,000 boats, about 200 of which operate in those areas during the fishing season.

Suao-based trawlers account for 70 percent to 80 percent of the Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the areas covered by the pact.

Lin said the difference between going before the fishing pact took effect and afterward is that Taiwanese trawlers will no longer be harassed by the Japan Coast Guard.

The landmark agreement signed April 10 allows Taiwanese trawlers to operate in part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the disputed islets.

The pact designates an area in Japan’s EEZ where reciprocal fishing is allowed.

However, the jointly controlled zone excludes what Japan regards as its 12-nautical-mile territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

Tokyo and Taipei also agreed to establish a “special cooperation zone” where each party applies laws and regulations to its own nationals and fishing vessels.

There are three other areas outside Taiwan’s “temporary law enforcement line” where Taiwanese trawlers can operate under the agreement, covering an area of 4,530 sq. km.

The pact has been well received by Taiwanese fishermen.

Lin Yue-ying said that had the pact not been signed, many of his colleagues were ready to fly the Chinese flag to protect themselves.

A Suao-based fishing boat captain who asked to be identified only as “Mr. Yu” said he welcomed the agreement but personally thinks the Japanese know how to manage the disputed waters better because they are able to protect and preserve fishing resources in the area.

“If Taiwanese and Chinese fishermen continue to catch fish the way they do now, I’m afraid our children and grandchildren will have no fish to catch,” he said.