United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 2, 2016
Executive Summary: Earlier this year, the moment the Democratic Progressive Party won the election, Japan's attitude quickly changed. Japan knows that the DPP shares its hatred of Mainland China. Japan's fear that Taiwan might side with the Mainland against Japan has diminished dramatically. The Japanese know they need no longer offer concessions to Taiwan. As a result, during the ongoing Taiwan Japan Fisheries Agreement Committee meeting, the Japanese government has not merely refused to silence the Okinawan fishermen, it has deliberately used them as political bargaining tool against us.
Full Text Below:
The "Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement Committee",
which regulates Taiwan and Japanese fishing vessel operations, has convened a three day meeting in Taipei. This is the fifth such meeting convened since the “Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement" was signed three years ago, in April 2013. Past meetings have been low-keyed. This meeting however, is just the opposite. Okinawan fishermen are demanding that the Japanese government modify the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement. They hope to significantly shrink the area in which Chinese fishermen may operate. Fishermen from Taiwan are naturally unwilling to back down. They have demanded that the government protect their fishing rights, and refuse to compromise.
The talks were originally purely technical in nature. But they have escalated into a confrontation between the two nations' fishermen, not because the times have changed, but because the political climate has changed. Fishermen from Okinawa are demanding that the area that Taiwan fishermen may operate be reduced. They are relentless. They were never this strident in the past. Their demands have filled the meeting room with the unmistakable odor of gun smoke and political calculation.
The Japanese government has long attempted to cozy up to Taiwan, in order to discourage us from joining forces with the Mainland against Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands dispute. It ignored the interests of Okinawan fishermen and signed the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement. Once the agreement was signed, large numbers of Taiwanese fishing vessels took to the open sea. The Japanese government silenced Okinawan fishermen, preventing them from undermining relations between Taiwan and Japan. Political considerations overrode economic interests.
Earlier this year, the moment the Democratic Progressive Party won the election, Japan's attitude quickly changed. Japan knows that the DPP shares its hatred of Mainland China. Japan's fear that Taiwan might side with the Mainland against Japan has diminished dramatically. The Japanese know they need no longer offer concessions to Taiwan. As a result, during the ongoing Taiwan Japan Fisheries Agreement Committee meeting, the Japanese government has not merely refused to silence the Okinawan fishermen, it has deliberately used them as political bargaining tool against us.
Under the circumstances, the government must demand adherence to existing provisions in the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement, and defend our fishing rights. At the technical level, it must also demand the establishment of a "Fishing Gear Recovery Mechanism" to protect the interests of our fishermen. This will prevent fishing disputes from undermining diplomatic relations.
First, we must uphold the existing Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement. This will protect our existing fishing rights and fisheries. The Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement enabled our fishing vessels to operate in waters north of Pachungshan. That area is a traditional fishing ground for Taiwan fishermen. Every fishing season, from April to August, as many as 300 of our fishing vessels register for access to these waters, far more than the 100 fishing boats from Japan. Clearly our fishermen are highly active. But large numbers of our fishing vessels in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands have made Okinawan fishermen feel victimized.
Since 2013, Okinawan fishermen have cited conservation of natural resources as their reason for their relentless appeals to the Japanese government. They hope to increase the distance between fishing vessels, from two nautical miles to four nautical miles, in order to effectively manage the area's fisheries resources. But increasing the spacing between fishing vessels will affect our fishing rights. The government must argue this point, and must not compromise.
Next, we must establish a Fishing Gear Recovery Mechanism to protect our fishermen. According to the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement, the area that the Japanese government opened up for our fishing vessels is not very large. When trawlers release their nets, the nets frequently extend out more than three miles. The slightest mistake and the nets drift into prohibited fishing areas. The Japanese government fines our fishing vessels up to 30 million Yen, or 10 million NT in fines. The loss to our fishermen is substantial.
Our government must bargain hard with the Japanese side. It must establish a Fishing Gear Recovery Mechanism that enables our vessels to enter no-fishing zones unharmed in order to recover our fishing nets. It must urge the Japanese government to reduce the unreasonably high fines, to avoid excessive losses to our fishermen.
Defending our fishing rights is of course a non-partisan task. Unfortunately the current fisheries coordination meeting coincides with the handover of presidential power. The DPP invariably questions and obstructs anything the Ma government tries to do. It invariably sees everything as a conspiracy and does its utmost to interfere. Its attitude will do more harm than good during Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement talks. We call on the DPP to cease its obstructionism and reach unanimous agreement on this issue. Otherwise, the next time a Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement meeting is convened, the onus will be on the DPP.
今起在台北召開三天，這是繼二○一三年四月「台日漁業協議」 簽署以來，雙方所召開的第五次協調會議。對照過去會議的低調， 這次卻出現對立之聲：沖繩漁民日前要求日本政府修改「 台日漁業協議」，大幅限縮我國漁民在此海域捕魚的適用範圍； 台灣漁民對此當然寸步不讓，要求政府積極維護我國漁權， 絕不能退讓。
並非因為時空移易，而在政治氛圍的轉變。 沖繩漁民要求限縮漁場的呼聲其來有自，不曾停歇， 然從未像這次這樣被刻意放大。這不僅使此次會議瀰漫著硝煙味， 也讓談判沾染上濃濃政治色彩。
避免我國與中國大陸在釣魚台問題上聯手，權衡之下， 遂不顧沖繩漁民的利益，逕與台灣簽署「台日漁業協議」。 在協議通過後，台灣漁船大量進入開放海域捕魚時， 它也極力壓制沖繩漁民的反對聲浪，唯恐台日關係受到影響。 這是政治考量凌駕經濟的利益。
日方認為民進黨與日本擁有相同的「反中」基因， 日本以往擔憂兩岸聯手的疑慮，自然大為減緩， 故日本即不必再對台灣積極「讓利」。於是， 在這次的台日漁業委員會當中， 日本政府不但不壓制沖繩漁民的反對聲音，反而刻意放大， 把他們當成對我方討價還價的政治工具。
台日漁業協議」的底線，以保障我國的漁權；在技術層面， 更要進一步與日本建立「漁具回收機制」，以捍衛我國漁民的權益， 也可以避免台日外交因為漁業糾紛而再生紛爭。
以保障我國的既有漁權與漁場。在「台日漁業協議」 開放我國漁船進入八重山北方海域捕魚之後， 由於該海域長期以來便是台灣漁民的傳統漁場，因此， 在每年四月至八月漁汛期間，我國登記進入該海域捕魚的漁船， 每年平均多達三百艘，遠多於日本的一百艘，可見我漁民之積極。 但我漁船大量進入釣魚台的海域捕魚， 自然讓沖繩漁民有相對剝奪感。
多次向日本政府建議，希望能夠放寬漁船的間距， 從現行的兩海里擴大到四海里，以便有效管理該海域的漁業資源。 但是漁船間距的擴大，卻會影響我國漁船到此海域捕魚的權益， 對此，政府應該要據理力爭，不應對此妥協。
台日漁業協議」的規範，日本政府開放我國漁船作業的海域並不大， 而漁船的拖網一放，又動輒長達三十海里； 這常常造成我國漁船在作業期間，稍一不慎， 拖網便會漂流到禁止捕魚區。日本政府對於我國漁船的漁具越界， 往往課以高達三千萬日圓（約台幣一千萬元）的罰鍰， 漁民損失不貲。
讓我國漁船能夠無害進入禁止捕魚區，回收拖網。 同時也應促使日本政府降低不合理的高額罰鍰， 以避免我國漁民蒙受重大損失。
這次台日漁業協調會議召開之時，正逢我國政權交接的空窗期， 民進黨對於馬政府的施政，凡事都要過問與杯葛，以「陰謀論」 的想法干擾其作為；這樣的態度，對於台日漁業談判， 恐怕有害無益。我們呼籲，民進黨應揚棄扯後腿的心理， 在此議題上抱持共識一致對外；否則，下次的台日漁業協議， 難保不成為民進黨執政的大包袱。