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200 More Bluefins For Taiwanese This Year

The number of bluefin tuna caught off the coasts of Pingtung County this year reached a total of 642 as of June 27, increasing by 200 from the same period last year, as a result of the signing of a fishery agreement with Japan in April and the government’s intensified efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen.

Taiwan’s fishermen caught their first bluefin tuna of the year on April 18, ahead of the opening of the annual Pingtung Bluefin Tuna Cultural Festival in May, according to Donggang Fishermen’s Association in southern Taiwan. The festival will run until the end of June.

Some more catches can be expected in July, as the last bluefin tuna caught in 2012 was on July 24, taking the total number of catches to 505 for last year, said Lin Han-chou, chief executive of the association.

Lin attributed the increase in tuna catch to the patrol boats sent to safeguard Taiwanese fishermen after the May 9 incident, in which a 65-year-old fisherman, Hung Shih-chen, was shot dead by the Philippine Coast Guard while operating in the two countries' overlapping economic zones.

The patrol boats made fishermen feel safer on the waters, Lin said.

Moreover, an agreement with Japan, which gives Taiwan access to an additional 4,530 square kilometers of fishing grounds, has also helped increase the catch, he noted.

Bluefin tuna could fetch around NT$ 600 (USD 19.9)-700 per kilogram on the market, with this year’s prices being at the same level as last year's, Lin said.