Taipei, A ban on fishing for Great white sharks, Megamouth sharks and Basking sharks officially took effect Tuesday, in an effort to preserve biological diversity, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said the same day.
Starting Tuesday, the ban, which is applicable to all Taiwanese fishing boats, regardless of where they fish, requires all vessels that inadvertently catch the sharks to release them back into the sea, whether dead or alive, according to a COA press release.
Those who fail to abide by the regulation will face a maximum three-year prison sentence, and possibly a fine of NT$150,000 (US$5,209) in accordance with the Fisheries Act, it said.
Vessels are obliged to report such accidental catches and releases to local fisheries authorities within one day of returning to Taiwanese ports. They are also required to detail when and where the sharks were caught and their size, according to the COA.
Those who fail to report such incidents face a fine of NT$30,000 to NT$150,000, according to the COA.
Researchers who catch the three kinds of sharks for teaching or scientific research purposes are exempt from the new rule, it added.
The COA’s Fisheries Agency said Great white sharks and Basking sharks are listed as a “vulnerable species” and an “endangered species,” respectively, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Although the IUCN categorized Megamouth sharks in November 2018 as being of “least concern” on its Red List, it suggested that Taiwan should take measures to require the release of Megamouth sharks incidentally caught when fishing for sunfish using driftnets.
According to data from the agency, Taiwan first began to require that catches of the three shark species be reported to the authorities in 2013. At that time, such catches were legal but vessels that failed to report them were liable to be fined NT$30,000-150,000.
A reported 34 Great white sharks and 139 Megamouth sharks have been caught by Taiwanese vessels since 2013.
The ban was applauded by the Taipei-based nonprofit and nongovernmental Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), which has for years pushed for the protection of Megamouth sharks.
EAST chief executive officer Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏) said the ban is an important decision to help preserve the shark population.
Saving Megamouth sharks is of great urgency for Taiwan since they migrate in waters off Eastern Taiwan from April to August every year.
Since the Megamouth shark was discovered and named in 1976, only 226 have been recorded around the world as of June 17 this year, 146 of which were caught in Taiwan, he said.
He continued to call on the government to list Megamouth sharks as a protected species to ensure their survival.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel