By Liu Chien-pang, Y.F. Low
The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) will dispatch large patrol vessels to increase a crackdown on Chinese ships illegally removing sand or poaching fish off the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen, CGA head Wang Ginn-wang said Monday. The government will continue to communicate over the issue with Chinese authorities in the hopes they can work together to fight the illegal activities, Wang said during a legislative hearing. He said Chinese ships have often trespassed into Taiwan's waters near Kinmen to poach, sailing back to nearby Chinese waters when Taiwan's Coast Guard vessels move forward to try to expel them. To curb poaching, the government has raised the punishment for lawbreakers to a maximum fine of NT$500,000 (US$16,447) per ship, he said. In a recent report, CommonWealth magazine said that the practice of sand poaching threatens Taiwan's territorial and ecological security. Much of the sand has been sold to Taiwan as well as used in projects such as an airport in Xiamen, located in Fujian province just across from Kinmen, the well-respected publication added. It quoted a Chinese provider as saying that up to 800,000 metric tons of sand is shipped to Taiwan from Fujian each month, accounting for 65 percent of the sand needed by construction companies in central and northern Taiwan. "Half of that sand is poached (from around Kinmen)," added the man identified as Li, a 45-year-old man with 15 years of experience in the sand and gravel business.