Taiwan’s government failed to push for sustainable fishing at the just-concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions (WCPFC) meeting, the local branch of Greenpeace East Asia charged Saturday.

As one of the region’s major fishing powers, Taiwan did not exercise as much influence as it should have to block new measures that could destroy fish populations, the group said.

According to Greenpeace, instead of stepping up efforts to protect marine life, the March 26-30 meeting at Guam unraveled existing measures to preserve the region’s fishing resources by reopening certain high-sea fishing grounds to destructive fishing methods.

Although Taiwan voted against the initiative, which was mainly pushed by South Korea and the United States, its reluctance to come up with a rescue plan showed its weakness on the issue, Greenpeace said.

“It’s a shame for an industry leader like us to sit back and let others decide the future of the ocean,” said Yen Ning, the group’s oceans campaigner.

Kim Schoppink, campaign manager of Greenpeace East Asia, described the meeting in general as a huge setback to marine conservation efforts.

“It is suicidal,” Schoppink said. “They are focused on catching the last fish before others.”

The Fisheries Agency, which represented Taiwan at the meeting, disagreed, describing the meeting’s results as constructive.

“We don’t see it as a partial reopening of the Pacific Commons. It’s more about different methods of fishing management,” said Lin Ding-rong, deputy director of the agency’s Deep Sea Fisheries Division.

Lin also took issue with the organization’s charge that Taiwan had acted passively at the meeting, saying it contributed to the newly passed ban on endangered oceanic whitetip sharks.

As Greenpeace was criticizing the outcome of the WCPFC meeting Saturday, it was welcoming hundreds of people in Keelung aboard the Esperanza, one of Greenpeace’s flagships that arrived in Taiwan March 23 to raise local awareness of the meeting and the overfishing issue.

But it was hard to tell if the message was getting through.

“I am as big a fan of the ships as my son is of SpongeBob,” said Lin Ming-tsung, who came from Taoyuan County to see the ship with five of his family members.

As with Lin, Wang Chao-nan from Taipei seemed confused when asked if he knew the purpose of Esperanza’s presence.

“This ship reminds me of my military service on outlying Kinmen island,” the 70-year-old said. “But our landing craft was far more impressive than this one, I can tell you that.”

The Central News Agency