Highlights from the Taiwan International Conference on Fisher’s Welfare

From May 13-17, 2024, Taichung City, Taiwan, played host to the Taiwan International Conference on Fisher’s Welfare, a significant event dedicated to addressing the pressing issues faced by fishers globally. Organized by Stella Maris Taiwan, the conference brought together a diverse group of religious leaders, government officials, industry experts, and advocates to discuss and promote the welfare of fishers. Here’s a detailed recap of the event.

The conference officially commenced with Dr. Jason Zuidema, the moderator for the first day, inviting participants to take their seats. The welcoming addresses were delivered by several distinguished guests, including His Excellency Msgr. Stefano Mazzotti, Vatican Charges d’Affairs to Taiwan, His Excellency Msgr. Martin Su, Bishop of Taichung and Stella Maris Bishop Promoter in Taiwan, Ms. Lin Shi Ling, President of Providence University Taichung, Taiwan, and Fr. Joy Tajonera, National Director of Stella Maris Taiwan, who officially declared the conference open. His Excellency Premier Chen Chien-jen updated the audience on the actions of the Taiwan to support fishers, after which Bishop Martin Su presented him with a gift. The opening session also featured a special video message from H.E. Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, adding a global perspective to the event.

Opening a second session, Cardinal Stephen H.E. Brislin, Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, delivered a powerful keynote speech on the theme of witnessing the affliction and cries of the oppressed, drawing from Exodus 3:7. This set the stage for a series of insightful presentations throughout the morning. Michael O’Brian from the ITF Fisheries Section discussed the global situation of the fisheries industry and its labor force, followed by Professor Wen-Hong Liu of National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, who analyzed legal frameworks protecting migrant labor rights in North-East Asia, comparing Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Mr. Rossen Karavatchev from the ITF Maritime Department addressed social protection and health provisions for fishers.

The afternoon sessions focused on Taiwan’s legislation and regulations aimed at improving the living and working conditions on board Taiwanese Distant Fishing Vessels (DFV). Presentations by the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan and the Ministry of Labor highlighted advancements in legislation and services for migrant fishers in national waters. The National Immigration Authority (NIA) introduced the new Anti-Trafficking Act. Representatives from the Taiwan Tuna Association, Taiwan Squid & Saury Fisheries Association, and Taiwan Tuna Longline Association provided industry insights. The day concluded with a reacting panel featuring Mrs. Valery Alzaga from Global Labor Justice and representatives from the Stella Maris Taiwan and the Forum Silaturahmi Pelaut Indonesia. Industry representatives noted the expansion of Internet on board in the past year, while some NGOs encouraged an even faster rollout.

The second day of the conference began with a presentation on environmental destruction and climate change in fisheries by Jessica Sparks from Tufts University. Other highlights included a speech by H.E. Msgr. Ruperto Santos, Bishop of Antipolo, on the Catholic Church’s concern for the welfare of seafarers. Eric Holliday, CEO of Fisher Safety Foundation, quantified the true human cost of fishing, revealing an alarming 100,000 fatalities annually. Union leaders from Indonesia presented their efforts to support fishers, followed by Mrs. Sarah Lenel of the IMCS Network, who discussed promoting safe and decent work on fishing vessels in the Pacific.

Tim Hill, CEO of Stella Maris UK, highlighted the mission to support migrant fishers against exploitation and trafficking. Country presentations from the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Korea showcased regional initiatives. The importance of Wi-Fi for fishers’ rights at sea was emphasized by Hadi, an active fisher, and Jonathan Parhusip from Global Labor Justice.

The final day featured presentations on various critical topics, including ministering to people of the sea in an interreligious and intercultural environment by Dr. Jason Zuidema of the International Christian Maritime Association. Fr. Peter-John Pearson, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, emphasized the moral imperatives against human trafficking. Kevin Hyland of the Santa Marta Group introduced a new alliance to combat trafficking and forced labor in fisheries. Colm Noonan of the Irish National Police discussed financial investigations and sanctions related to human trafficking, and Martin Foley, CEO of Arise Foundation, spoke on building frontline capacity against modern slavery.

The conference concluded with closing remarks from Fr. Joy Tajonera and Msgr. Martin H.E. Su, followed by a concluding dinner featuring local dancers and a youth orchestra. Stella Maris Taiwan extended its deepest gratitude to the government institutions, international and local organizations, and individuals whose financial support and efforts made the Taiwan International Conference on Fisher’s Welfare a clear success. Their contributions have been instrumental in addressing the critical issues facing fishers worldwide and advancing their welfare.

Photo courtesy of Stella Maris.


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals