In a tightened up policing of their fishing industry Thailand has begun intercepting and inspecting fishing boats far out at sea this year, one of many new measures to curb its dangerously high levels of overfishing.
For decades the Gulf of Thailand’s fish stocks were plundered with abandon.
Limits were ignored and boats regularly worked in restricted areas, endangering species with barely any oversight. Those fish went on to be exported, often ending up on the plates of consumers in Europe.
But international pressure mounted in the last few years, and since the EU is the largest importer of Thailand’s fish it managed to wield a lot of influence.
In 2015 the EU issued a “yellow card,” warning the Thai government it would suspend its imports if no action was taken, and in January it was finally lifted and a “green card” was awarded.
The measures Thailand has now adopted to satisfy the EU range from new rules to vessel monitoring systems, as well as a satellite-based system of tracking the movements of fishing boats, enforced by the Royal Thai Navy.
Some illegal catches would often land in Thailand on refrigerated cargo ships. Some of these huge vessels were getting their daily catch from smaller, illegal fishing boats on the high seas — a practice called “fish laundering.”
Now foreign flag vessels are not allowed into Thai ports anymore unless their cargo is properly certified.
“Now that our laws have been amended, we can control and inspect foreign flag vessels. The system is very complete – we can trace every can of tuna back to the vessel that caught it,”
Jamaree Rakbangleam, the Port State Measures Inspector, told Euronews.
“This has resulted in a major upgrade of the Thai fisheries governance, in accordance with the international commitments of the country.”
Thai seafood exports stood at 1.85 billion euros in 2017, Commerce Ministry data show, recovering to their 2014 level after a drop in 2015 to 1.6 billion euros following the European Union warning.
About 9.9 percent of Thai seafood exports went to the European Union last year, versus 10.3 percent in 2014, ministry data show.
Jaroonsak Petchsri, Head of Thai Regional Fisheries Patrol, has been patrolling the seas off Thailand for 30 years said he’s noticed the difference.
“In the past, we didn’t really have much control over the fisheries… They were depleting the sea, harvesting fish big and small, removing it in spawning seasons. Now, with the new laws, these things have changed,” he told Euronews.
Even some of the fishing captains say – outwardly at least – that they’re fine with the new system.
“I agree that all the illegal fishing has to end. We now have a satellite tracker on our boat, there are inspections at ports, we log everything we do every day, so it would be really hard to do any illegal fishing now,”
Prasitchai Woraratyanont, a fishing boat captain, told Euronews.
Fisheries Dept to present fishery sector’s achievements at ASEAN Summit
The Department of Fisheries will present the country’s achievements in the fishing sector at the 34th ASEAN Summit, which will be held in Bangkok from June 20 to 23, 2019.
The Deputy Director-General of the Department of Fisheries, Arunchai Puthcharoen, said the exhibitions of the Thai fishing sector will be organized under the framework of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF).
The department will present the idea of setting up the ASEAN IUU Network to help curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region.
The member states will work together to monitor fishing activities and develop mechanisms to enhance cooperation in this field. Previously, Thailand hosted the ASEAN Meeting on Combating IUU Fishing in Partnership with the EU on April 4 and 5 this year.
Mr. Arunchai said the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Fisheries will gather ideas on this issue and discuss them at its meeting in Vietnam later this month.
He said Thailand has been successful in tackling IUU fishing and has managed its marine resources in a sustainable way. Thai fishing industry standards have been elevated to those of international standards and has has received worldwide recognition.