Taiwan eyes marine park despite fishermen objection

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Taiwan plans to set up a marine national park in the middle of one of its largest fishing grounds despite opposition from fishermen who depend on the area for their livelihood, an official said Monday.

The planned national park will cover three island chains and surrounding waters to the north of Taiwan, measuring some 750 square kilometres (300 square miles).

"An evaluation of the new marine national park has been under way," Hsu Shao-liang of the Marine National Park Headquarters told AFP.

The outlook for the project, which will become Taiwan's second marine national park, is bright as the initial response from the public has been positive, he said.

"There's been some noise, of course. Some fishermen who wish to catch fish in the area have opposed the project, fearing that their livelihood would be negatively impacted," he said.

"But others favoured the project from a fisheries resources protection perspective," he said, referring to the depletion of fisheries resources by the frequent invasion of Chinese poachers.

Taiwan's coastguards drove away 1,048 Chinese fishing boats illegally operating there last year, up from 797 the previous year, government figures showed.

Chinese fishermen have been accused of using dynamite and poison to catch fish.

If the new national park project is realised, fishing will be banned in a three-mile zone around the three island chains - Pengchia, Mienhua and Huaping.

Taiwan's existing marine national park, in the South China Sea, straddles a strategically important sea route linking the Pacific and Indian oceans.