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Dark sides of Taiwan's pelagic industry uncovered

  • 2017-10-26

  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 …