Driftnet Fleet Ownership and Control


The Japanese government controlled their driftnet fleets through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Japan Fisheries Agency. The Japan Fisheries Agency works closely with the Japan Fisheries Association (JFA), a nonprofit corporation representing the entire fishing industry of Japan. Members include the major Japanese fishing companies, fishery associations, and other entities belonging to related industries such as marketing, processing, shipbuilding and gear and net manufacturers. The major Japanese fishing companies include the Taiyo Fishery Co., Ltd., Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd., Nichiro Gyogyo Kaisha, Ltd., Kyokuyo Co., Ltd., Nippon Reizo Kabushiki Kaisha, Hoko Fishing Co., Ltd., Hokoku Marine Products Co., Ltd., Hakodate Kokai Fishery Co., Ltd., Hokkaido Fisheries Co., Ltd. In addition, several private fishing associations represented the Japanese high seas driftnet fishermen. (Table 16) In Japan, the fishing industry is vertically integrated. The same company may own one or more fleets of driftnet vessels, manufacture and distribute driftnet gear, and process and market the catch.

The Republic of Korea (South Korea)

The ROK driftnet fisheries were subject to government control through the Korean National Fisheries Administration (KNFA) and industry control through the Korean Deep Sea Fisheries Association (KDSFA). The KDSFA is a trade organization and functions like a fishermen's club. Members include company representatives and owners of trawlers and other open ocean fishing vessels. Every member pays dues. The Association mostly lobbies the government about regulations, taxes, and loan guarantee programs. The Korean Squid Driftnet Fishery Association (KDSFA) was separate, but part of the Korean Deep Sea Fisheries Association. The KDSFA was formed in 1989 in part due to pressure from the United States in its attempt to conclude an agreement with the ROK implementing provisions of the U.S. Driftnet Impact Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act of 1988. Its membership was composed of the owners of fishing vessels. Unlike the deep sea trawlers, which are dominated by four or five companies, the squid fishing industry was very diverse. There were, apparently, no major players that dominated the squid fishing industry. Vessels were owned by individuals scattered about South Korea.

The agreement with the United States was concluded by members of the Korean National Fisheries Administration, the Korean Squid Driftnet Fishery Association, and one or two vessel owners. Enforcement of fishing regulations was done via licensing requirements. In 1989, the government did not maintain patrol boats. Licenses were renewed annually and there were a number of requirements. For example, before a vessel captain could put out to sea each year, he had to attend a short course at the KNFA National Fisheries Research & Development Center in Pusan to learn/relearn how to collect data, specimens, etc. When he returned from sea, he had to debrief at Pusan within a certain period of time, bringing his data and specimens with him.


The Taiwan central government issues vessel licenses (fishing certificates) and requires the installation of transponders on vessels, but did not exert much additional control over its driftnet fleets. Individual prefectures exerted more control. The Kaohsiung Fisheries Administration controlled the activities of the squid driftnet fleets operating out of Kaohsiung. In order to move in and out of port, to offload and conduct trading activities, a vessel must have clearance from the Kaohsiung Port Authority. A vessel cannot leave from one port and enter another port. Owners of driftnet vessels were also encouraged to join one of four trade associations: the Kaohsiung Fishing Boats Commercial Guild, the Keelung Fishing Boats Commercial Guild, the Taiwan Deep Sea Squid Boatowners & Exporters Association or the Taiwan Deep Sea Tuna Boatowners & Exporters Association.

Prior to 1983, squid vessels were traditionally owned by squid fishermen and squid was their primary catch. In Taiwan, squid traditionally brings a higher price on the market than salmon and the incidental catch of salmon by the traditional squid fleet was estimated between three and six percent. Around 1983, the traditional squid fishery was infiltrated by large tuna boat operators set up to operate internationally. After that the average size of squid driftnet vessels greatly increased and some companies grew quite large, owning from two to ten vessels outright and leasing another twenty. Major players included the F.C.F. Fishery Co., Ltd., the Taiwan Ming Tai Co., Ltd. and the Win Shung Fishing Co., Ltd. There were also reports that Japan had invested in Taiwan's driftnet industry. The Mitsubishi Corporation acquired a controlling interest in cold stores and a tuna cannery in Mauritius that received tuna caught by Taiwanese driftnet vessels in the Indian Ocean (EII 1991). In 1989, it was fairly common knowledge in Taiwan that the "squid" companies were focusing on the North Pacific salmon stocks and that large illegal catches were being transferred at sea and were showing up at warehouses in Singapore, canneries in Thailand, and wholesale markets in Tokyo, the United States, and Europe. Due to the very public nature of offloading the catch at Kaohsiung, it would have been difficult to offload a large catch of illegally-caught salmon in Taiwan.

In 1989, the Taiwanese fleet included least 2,500 vessels of 50 GRT or more capable of fishing on the high seas. Although some of these were older vessels scheduled for retirement, others had been refitted as multipurpose fishing vessels. In August 1989, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture announced a moratorium on fishing vessel construction during 1990 while it assessed fishing capacity in the face of diminishing fishery resources (USITC 1990 p. 518). However, in 1990, it was reported that Taiwan planned to build 1,340 more fishing vessels in 1991. (United Daily News, August 1990) Taiwan also manufactured driftnets. In Taiwan, a new monofilament net 42 meters by 10.5 meters cost US$116 new and US$20 used.

Processing the Catch

Driftnet-caught tuna was processed into canned tuna, which was sold for both human consumption and as petfood. Very little, if any, was consumed as a fresh, or fresh-frozen product because driftnet-caught tuna usually dies several hours before it can be frozen and is of poor quality. Quality sorting is done primarily at the cannery and fish not up to the standards required by the importing State usually were processed into animal feed and fertilizer.

A large percentage of driftnet tuna caught in the Pacific and Indian Oceans was and may still be offloaded into cold storage warehouses in Singapore. Prior to 1991, it was thereafter shipped north to canneries in Thailand, which began canning tuna in 1972. Thailand is one of the largest canned tuna exporters in the world, with some 22 canning companies, processing primarily imported frozen tuna. (Table 17a) Five tuna canneries, accounting for about three fourths of the total Thai canned tuna production, are located in the Samu Sakhon area southwest of Bangkok, with the remaining canneries scattered to the south along the coast. (Endnote 3) According to data provided to the USITC by Thai tuna processors, the 1990 cannery productive capacity was about 1,900 metric tons per day, with 87% being utilized (USITC 1990 p. 52).

In July 1990, the Thai Food Processors Association (TFPA) adopted a policy, effective December 1990, that prohibited its twenty member canneries from processing high seas driftnet tuna. The action was taken in response to an announcement by major U.S. tuna companies that they would no longer purchase tuna caught by methods that killed dolphins. Thereafter it became more difficult for environmental groups to trace the path of driftnet-caught tuna. There were indications that the frozen tuna were routed to canneries in Taiwan, Philippines, Japan, Spain, and Italy.

The Philippines has about 12 canning companies with a total capacity of about 120,000 metric tons. Production increased substantially in 1988 and 1989 to 47,500 metric tons, but as of 1991 there was still a large excess capacity. The increase in production was mainly due to an increase in frozen tuna imports. (Table 17b) 1988 imports of 18,552 metric tons of frozen tuna were six times the level of the previous year. Virtually all the canned tuna was exported. (Table 18a)

Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese cannery capacity continued to increase as other canneries adopted policies of not purchasing driftnet products. Taiwan operates at least five canneries and is a major exporter. In 1987, Taiwan exported 68,462 metric tons of canned tuna (USITC 1990 p. 518). Japan has 25 tuna canneries that produced 103,793 metric tons of canned tuna in 1989. Exports totaled 5,214 metric tons; apparent internal consumption 98,631 metric tons (USITC 1990 p. 514)

Tuna caught by Atlantic and Indian Ocean driftnet vessels was canned in France, Italy and Spain, along with tuna caught using purse seiners, trollers and long liners. Italian canneries import most of their supplies of frozen tuna. France and Spain also import frozen tuna. In 1989, Italy produced 85,000 metric tons, Spain produced 71,000 metric tons, and France 54,000 metric tons of canned tuna. (Table 18b)

Canned Tuna - Exports and Imports

Since virtually the entire Thai output of canned tuna is exported to the global market, its export destinations indicate the major markets for canned tuna, which include the United States and the European Community (EC). (Table 19) As of December 1990, the EC was the world's largest importer of canned tuna, having surpassed the United States in 1986. (USITC 1990 p. 49) In 1990, EC imported 166,000 metric tons of canned tuna. (Table 20a) The largest EC canned tuna import markets are France, the United Kingdom, and West Germany, which together import 82% of the total. Asia is the main exporter of canned tuna to the EC, with Thailand supplying 42% in 1989. (Table 20b) The United States imported 158,000 metric tons of canned tuna in 1989.

The Black Market for Salmon

Illegally caught salmon may be off loaded in Hong Kong or Singapore. From there it may be shipped directly to Europe (Table 21), or if it is destined for Japan, it may be rerouted and relabeled first in another foreign state, including Chile, Canada, and the United States (see section on Enforcement). In 1990, a third of the Netherlands' canned salmon imports and a fifth of Australia's salmon imports were supplied by Taiwanese and Korean companies selling black market salmon, canned in Thailand, and brokered and shipped through Singapore. On February 13, 1989, a member of the Canadian House of Commons sent a letter to the French ambassador complaining that "[a]gents for business interests involving Singapore nationals, Taiwanese nationals, and to some degree Nationals from other Asian Countries - all involved in the North Pacific driftnet squid fishery - have been documented supplying illegally caught salmon for sale in France" (Fulton, J. 1989).

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Earthtrust's DriftNetwork Page