TAIPEI (The China Post) — The Fisheries Agency (FA, 漁業署) clarified on Tuesday that offshore fishing boat, “Wasana NO. 66,” suspected of withholding its fishermen’s wages is a Sri Lankan fishing boat, and is not operated by Taiwanese.
The FA added that Taiwan has no jurisdiction over the boat and announced that they have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 外交部) to assist in transferring the case to the Sri Lankan government for investigation.
The boat had been on the Environmental Justice Foundation’s (EJF, 英國環境正義基金會) watchlist last year, and in October, the EJF sent a letter to the Fisheries Agency claiming that operators of Wasana NO. 66 had been withholding wages and that the crew is suspected of being subjected to forced labor.
The fishing vessel was also accused of obstructing the fishermen’s right to confirm details when signing their contracts, requiring migrant fishermen aboard to pay a deposit, forcing them to do extra “voluntary” work, being physically and verbally violent to the fishermen, as well as preparing inappropriate food and water, and providing insufficient rest hours to the fishermen during their employment period.
The Fisheries Agency remarked that upon further investigation, it was confirmed that the ship was not operated by Taiwanese employers and that Taiwan had no jurisdiction over the boat.
They did acknowledge that the boat was previously a Panamanian fishing boat invested and operated by Taiwanese businessmen and was named “Chun Kuo 66.” However, it was sold in January 2019 and its operating license was also terminated. It was later remodeled into the Wasana NO. 66 and is now registered in Sri Lanka.
The Fisheries Agency stressed that Taiwan, as an international member, abides by the norms of the C188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007. When receiving complaints about the working conditions of crew members, the Fisheries Agency vows to always conduct in-depth investigations to understand the situation.
In addition, in order to speed up the investigation and protect the rights and interests of crew members, it is expected that groups and personnel concerned about the human rights of migrant fishermen can provide specific and clear evidence when they file allegations of related acts endangering the rights and interests of crew members.
The Fisheries Agency added that Taiwan will continue to work with the international communities to protect the human rights of those in the fishery industry.