Allegations of poor working conditions made against a Taiwanese fishing boat were confirmed to be legitimate by authorities in Taiwan.

The Fisheries Agency (FA) confirmed the allegations at a press conference on October 4. Wang Mao-chen, the deputy head of the FA Deep Sea Fisheries Division said the boat being investigated, Fusheng No. 11, was operating in the Atlantic Ocean when the alleged violations were made, the Central News Agency reported.

According to FA investigations, 27 of the ship’s crew were migrants. Eight of the 27, who come from Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Philippines, were paid less than US$300 per month, significantly lower than the statutory minimum wage of US$450.

The vessel, based in Kaohsiung, was detained in Cape Town in May. Details of offences were made public in July when the International Labor Organization (ILO) stated publicly that the boat violated the Work in Fishing Convention, an internationally ratified set of basic standards for work on ships.

The FA initially dismissed the allegations. However, after further allegations of abuse and illegal fishing made by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), the FA interviewed six Indonesian crewmen. The interviews prompted the FA to launch formal investigations of their own when Fusheng No.11 made port on September 13 in Kaohsiung.

It was discovered that incidents of protected sharks being caught accidentally and subsequently released were not recorded in the ship’s records. The vessel owner and the captain were fined NT$3.75 million (US$120,787) for the violations and the vessel’s operating license is suspended for months, said Wang

As for the work abuse allegations, prosecutors in Kaohsiung accepted the case on October 1 and will investigate the crimes committed under the Human Trafficking Act.

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