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Bluefins Decline May Lead To End Of Pingtung Years First-Tuna Auction

The famous auction for the first-caught tuna of the season, a notable event held at the annual Pingtung Bluefin Tuna Cultural Festival, is likely to be dropped next year in the wake of the shooting death of fisherman Hung Shih-chen, a ranking official at Pingtung County Government said. Chin Feng-lan, director of the tourism and communications department of the county government, said that her department will make a final decision on the matter after conducting discussions with fishermen groups in July.

Chin made the remarks in response to media reports that fishermen in Pingtung County, stimulated by the prospect of the auction, had rushed to catch bluefin tuna over the past year and that this led to the shooting incident on May 9, in which Hung was shot dead after his fishing boat, operating in the overlapping economic zone, was attacked by Philippine Coast Guard. The shooting incident triggered a diplomatic dispute between Taiwan and the Philippines.

In view of this, the Pintung County Government is considering canceling the auction at the 2014 Pingtung Bluefin Tuna Cultural Festival, which will be opened in early May of next year, according to Chin.
She said that the decision was made as the executive secretary of the county fishermen association earlier revealed his inclination to cancel the auction next year.
Chin stressed however that the county government will organize a meeting in July to review the 2013 Pingtung Bluefin Tuna Cultural Festival, and will then make a final decision on whether to cancel the auction after discussing the matter with representatives of the fishermen association.
In fact, Chin continued, tuna catch figures have continued to fall in recent years, from over 10,000 in 2001 when the festival was first held to only 500 to 600 this year. This indicated that fishermen should change their tuna fishing methods to survive.
Furthermore, when the first tuna caught this year was auctioned earlier in May, there were environmental protection activists distributing pamphlets calling for conservation of bluefin tunas and some county councilmen asked the county government to scrap the auction. To this, Chin responded by saying that the county government won’t rule out the possibility of dropping the annual auction of first-caught tuna in 2014.
Meanwhile, Hung Tzu-chien, daughter of the shooting victim, expressed her support for dropping the auction. She said that only the fishing boat that catches the first tuna benefits from the auction, and other fishing boats don’t.
In addition, the auction also gives the misleading impression among consumers that bluefin tuna are quite expensive, according to Hung.