The Reality of Taiwan's Bustling Fisheries

Written by Hsin-Yuan Li and Alex Ko, 13/07/2021

Taiwan is an island surrounded by the East China, South China, and Philippine seas. Fishing is one of the most ancient industries of Taiwan, and the Taiwanese people love fish dishes. The fish yield in Taiwan is incredibly high because the country has a lot of fishing vessels, making production much greater than the domestic demand. The industry is very industrialized and, due to market theory, previously thought to be immune to regulations that would preserve the fish supply. Recently, fisheries have been beginning to change their fishing patterns to be more mindful of fish population preservation.

Photo taken by Markus Winkler, 06/10/2019

Photo taken by Markus Winkler, 06/10/2019

Overfishing has brought serious shock to marine biodiversity, especially in East Asia. 75% of the deep-sea fisheries fleets belong to four East Asian countries: China, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines. Taiwan's longline tuna catch is the largest in the world, nearly 170,000 tons, accounting for one-third of the world’s consumable tuna. This has resulted in a 96.4% decrease in the number of black tuna in the Pacific Ocean from 1952 to 2011. Some tuna species have been listed on the red list of threatened species ( IUCN). If the fisheries continue as they are now, there will be a serious threat of extinction for many species of fish.

Greenpeace in Taiwan has supervised and investigated Taiwan’s deep-sea fisheries since 2010. In addition to exposing tuna overfishing and illegal shark fin harvesting, it has put considerable pressure on Taiwan’s government. The aim of this investigation being that the government will pay attention to the ecological damage caused by deep-sea fisheries. It does not help that the governing authorities in Taiwan are not under the control of the United Nations, who are therefore not available to supervise or improve the fishery companies.

In October 2015, the world’s largest aquatic product market, the European Union, cited IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) regulations to issue a yellow card to Taiwan, pointing out three problems:

(a) Failure of cooperation with law enforcement.

(b) IUU activities are recurring and allow IUU aquatic product trade flows.

(c) Failure to comply with international norms.

That report has forced the Congress of the governing authorities on Taiwan to amend relevant fishery regulations to comply with international norms.

Photo taken by Beth Macdonald, 02/01/2021

Photo taken by Beth Macdonald, 02/01/2021

Unfortunately, Taiwan’s evil deeds in deep-sea offshore fishing are not over. The U.S. Department of Labor released the "List of Child Labor and Forced Labor Products" in 2020, with the fish caught by Taiwan's deep-sea fishing vessels being included in the list. Despite the government quickly responding to the E.U.’s yellow card, it did not thoroughly stop illegal fisheries and the mistreatment of fishermen. There are even reports of companies forcing foreign labourers to work all day long, and even conducting human trafficking to maintain profits. In spite of these facts, fishing is one of Taiwan’s main sources of income, so authorities tend to do little to reign in these corrupt fisheries.

Environmental groups have appealed to abolish the deep-sea employment system and modify regulations to comply with the standard C188 of The International Labour Association which deals with fishing labor rules. They simply ask for transparency of fishery management information. Despite these recent improvements and the governing authorities in Taiwan committing to change, the industry still needs drastically more attention and reformation before it can be considered ‘ethically sound’.

Carbon Tax Makes the World Sustainable

Written by Alex Ko, 15/07/2021

In 1995, 104 countries established the World Trade Organization (WTO), created to mediate trade disputes between its members. Tax-free policies helped the developed countries transfer their companies to the developing countries freely, appearing to provide job opportunities; in reality, they had created an economic class system. Old imperialist countries continue to exploit and economically colonise developing countries.

This is exemplified in the struggle of cash crop growers, where we see the cost of these goods in supermarkets far exceeding the cost of labour in certain countries. Capitalism allows this. Thanks to the tax-free policies, developed countries have transferred the labour-intensive industries with low technical requirements to the developing countries. Developing countries concentrate on how to attract wealthy investors, by exploiting labourers, planning export processing zones and indiscriminately abusing the environment. Developing countries often hold the belief that, through working hard for the developed countries, they will become rich and influential, therefore able to colonise poorer countries. Also, by wafting the incentive of job opportunities to the public, developing countries believe it can bring about GDP booms. But what does GDP actually represent? It seems we have sacrificed a lot: our cultures, our homes, and our lives, striving for an imperfect metric of development.

The freedom of trade is necessary, but if we ignore the regulations, this freedom might cause severe damage to the economic system. So much so that I think a binding sustainable development index is imperative, with higher tariffs on countries who have loose and detrimental environmental rules.

How can the Tariffs and Carbon Tax affect the International Economy

The tax-free policy allows manufactures to choose electricity at the lowest cost to maintain their profit, regardless of whether it will cause damage to the environment. The tax-free policy neglects the consequences of global warming and climate change. When the manufacturers build factories with the supply of fire-powered electricity and transfer the goods through ships and aeroplanes, they have released far greater carbon emissions than local manufacturers, and yet the price is still lower. Is this fair? If the government tracks carbon emissions from manufactures, those who choose renewable energy would no longer be disadvantaged in the price-oriented market. The manufacturers can start to develop energy-saving processes and use self-sufficient power supply systems. It could reduce the pressure on local power supply systems, and the government can gradually replace the coal-fired power plants by the gas-fired power plants. There would be no rhyme or reason for the coal-fired power plants to exist. Domestically, local governments could use carbon tax and the tariffs to encourage local firms to invest in green energy and develop more efficient power generation. Market prices of the products produced by green energy could also be made more affordable. It is a win-win-win for the manufacturers, consumers and importantly, the environment.

The World Needs a Binding Sustainable Development Index

The Paris Agreement was agreed by the 195 countries in the UN, but unfortunately it is not binding. China, the country which has emitted the most carbon dioxide, not only produces it domestically, but its country-owned enterprises have invested in dozens of fire powered plants from Zimbabwe to Indonesia. The fire powered plants will annually produce 19GW electricity and 115 million tons carbon dioxide emissions. The emissions will affect more countries, with climate change becoming harder for humans to adapt to. The global society should haul China over the coals. In other words, the UN should never have proposed an Agreement which has no concrete implementation plans for different countries. All 195 countries should agree on a localised sustainable index, which includes a climate change adaptation plan, supervised by the UN. We must refrain from selfishly building factories according to the lowest cost regardless of their environmental impact. We must change our international investment pattern, taking local power generation infrastructure into consideration. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how globalisation has left us unprepared for distaster. 

The UN should leave nobody out in the cold, especially with regards to climate change. Everyone has to adapt to it, and it truly is a matter of life and death.

The Dilemma of Taiwan's Electricity Shortages

Written by Alex Ko 10/07/2021

Taiwan is a small island lying on the Pacific, measuring 35,808 square kilometres. The population of Taiwan is approximately 23.57 million. The GDP rank of Taiwan is 21st with $759.104 billion in 2021, according to the IMF. The economy of Taiwan is the seventh largest in Asia and 20th-largest in the world. It is a miracle to keep the economy stable in areas with earthquakes, typhoons and volcanoes and without any electricity imports from other countries. But is the electricity as steady as before? Sadly, the electricity is in short supply.

Photo taken by Ella Ivanescu, 09/01/2020.

Photo taken by Ella Ivanescu, 09/01/2020.

The problem in Taiwan's power generation structure

The electricity consumption in 2020 was 271.094 billion KWh. The power generation of coal-fired power was 125.956 billion KWh and gas-fired power was 99.876 billion KWh. Nuclear power generated 31.44 billion KWh last year. In total, these three main powers generate 94.90% of total annual power. However, the newest nuclear power plant, Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant has been commissioned since 1984 and is going to be decommissioned by 2025. In recent years, people are asking: how do we make up for the loss of nuclear power generation? Should we use fire power or renewable energy?

Blackout: Realising the importance of electricity

In one week on The Island there were two blackouts on May 13th and 17th, 2021. On May 12th, the electricity consumption that day was 35.99 million KWh. Due to antiquated power plants and rising weather temperatures, the probability of power unit failure is higher. Taiwan’s power supply problem is no longer like walking on a steel cable, but rather on thin silk. Before, the generators had electricity reserves; nowadays, as a consequence of shortage of available units, a tiny problem is likely to cause a national blackout.

The conflict between Biodiversity and National Security

There are two upcoming public environmental referendums in Taiwan, to be held in December, 2021. One is about whether we commercially restart the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, as the non-nuclear policy has caused an air pollution and ecological catastrophe. The other is about moving CNPC Third Natural Gas Receiving Station (the station receives gas to generate power) away from Taoyuan Datan algae coast and waters. These two public referendums give Taiwanese people two solutions to make up the electricity generation following nuclear power plant decommission. However, many academics, government officials and members of the public worry nuclear plants could be huge targets for Chinese missiles, despite the benefits of nuclear power: low cost, high efficiency and zero air pollution production. If the public vote in favour of the transfer of the Receiving Station, then the government will have to find another location for it. The transfer would be very hard for an island with high biodiversity and being located at Pacific Rim Seismic Belt. The public referendum will decide the future of electricity generation in Taiwan.

The Option of Renewable Energy

There are several renewable energy generation methods in Taiwan, solar photovoltaic, wind power, pumped storage hydropower, biomass energy and geothermal power. We generated 18.279 billion KWh through them in 2020. Due to insufficient rainfall last year, the electricity generation from pumped storage hydropower decreased 2.523 billion KWh, compared to 2019. There are forty reservoirs on the island, with a total area of full water level at 8481.4 hectares. However, due to climate change, the rainfall does not reach as high as before. Therefore, we are looking towards solar photovoltaic as a possible solution; the government is planning to set a cumulative target of 20GW for solar photovoltaics by 2025. Due to high pressure on the development of ground-based photovoltaics, most of the solar power plants are transformed from farms; the goal for rooftops has been raised to 8GW and 12GW for ground-based photovoltaics. In the next five years, the average annual growth rate of renewable energy power generation must increase to 61.6% to reach the planned value by 2025 for renewable energy to account for 20% of total power generation, reaching a value of 61.7 billion KWh.

To surmise, climate change has resulted in less water, so hydropower generates less power than before. More solar power plants cannot be built because of land acquisition issues. Wind turbines kill many migratory birds, thus, turbine numbers are restricted to avoid collisions with birds, meaning wind farms cannot generate the maximum power. People in Taiwan look forward to replacing nuclear power with renewable energy, and we can see there are many possibilities. It might be hard to generate power self-sufficiently, but harming other creatures or bringing irreversible damage to the next generation is absolutely not an option for us.