Government plans to help fishermen during moratorium

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am

Updated at 5.27pm:
The government planned to offer a $250 million loan to fishermen to help them during this summer's moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yok-ngok said on Tuesday.

Days after the proposed loan scheme was announced last week, Dr Chow on Tuesday met fishermen representatives to explain the details. The representatives were led by legislator Wong Yung-kan, who represents the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Of the $250 million, $190 million would be injected into the Fisheries Development Loan Fund. Of the $190 million, $150 million will be set aside as loans for fishermen to upgrade equipment and seek new ways of operation, Dr Chow said.

The remaining $60 million would be injected into the Fish Marketing Organisation Loan Fund. By the injection, the fund would have sufficient capital to provide low interest loans to fishermen affected by the forthcoming moratorium, he said.
'Fishermen may use the fund to meet their needs during the moratorium period and to make preparation for resuming fishing operations after the moratorium, including purchasing fuel,' he said.

But Dr Chow declined calls by fishermen for a fuel subsidy, saying their vessels were using duty-free industrial marked diesel oil - whose price was far below that of diesel oil.

He said subsidising the fishing trade for fuel would be unfair to other industries which were also affected by soaring oil prices.

'We will continue to provide technical support, to arrange training and study tours and to liaise with overseas and mainland units to gauge relevant information to assist fishermen to pursue sustainable fisheries or switch to other trades,' Dr Chow said.

An annual ban on fishing is imposed in the South China Sea from June to August.

Fishermen have complained that high oil prices have made their lives difficult. Many of them said they would rather keep their boats in typhoon shelters than put them to sea, as fuel costs can be as high as $130,000 a month.