Taipei-The Penghu District Court ordered the detention of 28 Chinese nationals Friday, following their arrest for illegal sea sand dredging in Taiwanese waters, according to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).
According to a press release, the dredging was discovered Thursday during a joint patrol by the CGA and the Penghu County government, in shallow coastal waters known as the Taiwan Bank.
During the operation, the authorities detained a dredging ship and a transporter, along with 28 Chinese crew members, including the vessels' captains, surnamed Lu (?) and Kang (?), the CGA said.
The Penghu District Court ordered the 28 held incommunicado on suspicion of violating Taiwan's Sand and Gravel Excavation Act, and Law on the Exclusive Economic Zone, the largest such detention in the county's history.
China's construction boom, as well a coastal mining ban, have fueled an explosion in demand for sand, which is a key element in making concrete.
Despite an uptick in intrusions by Chinese vessels in recent years, Penghu Magistrate Lai Feng-wei (???) said the detention of the 172-meter transport ship was a first in Taiwan's history.
The government will pursue the maximum fine of NT$500,000 (US$16,351) to deter future violations, and will establish a system for preventing illegal sea sand dredging, Lai said.
The Taiwan Bank area where the dredging was discovered is located approximately 30 nautical miles southwest of Penghu's Qimei Township, and serves as a habitat and breeding ground for many species vital to the local fishing industry.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel