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Dark sides of Taiwan's pelagic industry uncovered


Cheng Han Wen, SOPA award winning journalist, sharing her investigation experiences about labour problem of Taiwan's pelagic industry with students.

A report revealing the abuse of migrant fishermen and the dark sides of the country's pelagic industry won 2017 Excellence in Investigative Reporting and in Human Rights Reporting of SOPA Award.

Cheng Han Wen, a journalist from the Taiwanese non-profit newsagent The Reporter, said their work drove the government to look into the working condition of migrant crewmen, during her speech on the HKBU-SOPA Award Winners Forum in Hong Kong Baptist University yesterday.

They traced back the death of Supriyanto, a Indonesian father-of-two, who came to Taiwan alone to support his family but lost his life on a fishing vessel. He was proclaimed "dead of disease".

Reading unconvincing official document and proof about his death, Cheng started to investigate the case for the truth about the treatment to migrant fishermen in Taiwan.

According to a report of Greenpeace Taiwan, over 1.6 million foreign fishermen work for distant water fisheries in Taiwan with a monthly wage of around US$100 ($780).

Given the fierce competition in the domestic fishing industry, lives of labour are perceived cheaper than fish, especially when it comes to foreign fishermen, said Cheng.

Cheng elaborated on the recruitment of the fisherman. She said they were mostly recruited by the agents in South-east Asia. Once they arrived the airport, they were brought to a dorm with poor living environment.

"They are locked away from people like a criminal, " she said.

The agents will arrange fisherman to get on the fishing boat as soon as possible to prevent them from escaping. In most cases, they can only get off two to three years later.  

"They are often abused by the captain and treated inhumanely," she said.

From getting on board a ship to plying timelessly, what those crew members earned will only be exploited by brokers, agents in Indonesia and in Taiwan respectively, leaving them slender money, Chen said.

She said the problem cannot be solved in short-term for the lucrative profits from employing migrant cheap labour.

"There is still a long way to go," she said.

The series story won two awards in the The Society of Publishers in Asia Award.


Cheng Han Wen is a journalist at The Reporter based in Taipei. In 2015, she joined The Reporter to cover health, waste management and ocean issues. Before joining The Reporter, she worked as a journalist at United Daily News in 2014. She loves exploring new forms of storytelling, especially with infographics. She was the recipient of the 2016 Excellent Journalism Award in Investigative Reporting in Taiwan.

SOPA Awards:

2017 Excellence in Investigative Reporting: Taiwan's offshore fisheries: Fraud, exploitation, blood and tears of fishing ground 台灣遠洋漁業專題:造假.剝削.血淚漁場

2017 Excellence in Human Rights Reporting: Fraud, exploitation, blood and tears of fishing 造假.剝削.血淚漁場

2017 Excellence in Information Graphics: Taiwan's offshore fisheries 台灣 遠洋漁業的大「鮪」鱸鰻



《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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