Thailand’s hopes of having a ‘yellow card’ warning hanging over its fishing and seafood exports to the European Union (EU) removed a little more than three years after having it put in place appear to have been dashed.
On Monday a meeting of Thai government agencies involved in pushing, cajoling, and forcing Thailand’s fishing and seafood industries to comply with EU illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing regulations was told that still more needs to be done.
The meeting came in the wake of an inspection of Thailand’s fishing and seafood sectors prior to the Songkran 2018 holiday period last month, during which wharves, boats, and seafood processing factories were inspected, and workers spoken with by a team from the European Commission of Directorate-General for EU marine and fisheries (DG Mare).
At Monday’s meeting deputy prime minister General Chatchai Sarikulya is reported to have told those present that while the inspectors had acknowledged the very significant reforms undertaken over the past two years, there was still more that needed to be done before ‘IUU free Thailand’ could be proclaimed.
According to a person with knowledge of the meeting, but who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak with the media, the announcement disappointed many of those attending the meeting. (See: Thailand Confident of Shedding IUU Fishing Tag (video))
“The expectation among many people was that the meeting was going to be told that the ‘yellow card’ was going to be removed, even though there are still a few loose ends that remain”, they said.
According to the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT) the inspectors left behind a short list of matters requiring additional attention, including better management of a real-time vessel location monitoring system managed by the Marine Department, with the data to be incorporated into the records kept by the country’s 32 Port-in Port-out (PIPO) centres.
Additionally, the IUU fishing inspectors are said to have required additional improvements to the Marine Department’s boat registration requirements, and harsher penalties for those breaking the law; Monday’s meeting expanded penalties imposed by the Fisheries Department to include fishing licence cancellation and vessel confiscation.
Disappointed, but upbeat
Although disappointed, it was reported that those attending the meeting remained upbeat, with the list of requirements believed to be achievable over the next three months.
The battle to try and bring Thailand’s previously loosely regulated, poorly enforced, and corruption-rife fishing and seafood sectors into compliance with EU standards has not been an easy one for Thailand’s government.
Article 44 of the Interim Thailand Constitution which provides Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha with almost omnipotent powers to by-pass standard bureaucratic procedures and processes has been instrumental in Thailand’s rapid response to the ‘yellow card’, which required tangible improvements in the first six months following its issue or face replacement with a ‘red card’, resulting in all Thai seafood exports to the EU being banned.
Speaking at a media briefing in February ahead of the latest IUU fishing inspection, deputy government spokesperson Lieutenant General Werachon Sukondhapatipak said Thailand wasn’t concerned by the coming inspection, adding that the government knew what its international obligations are and was fully committed to achieving that standard.
At the same media briefing Thailand government spokesperson Lieutenant General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the changes in laws and procedures that had been introduced since April 2015 were of such magnitude that they couldn’t be undone. “It’s gone too far. It can’t be undone now. In the future it can only be improved on”, he said.
Full IUU fishing compliance in three months
In the wake of Monday’s IUU fishing committee meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha said that Thailand remained committed to achieving international standards and to ensuring the sustainability of the Thailand fishing and seafood industries.
Over the next three months he said authorities will apply their full efforts to the matters raised by the IUU fishing inspectors to ensure that the Thai fishing and seafood industries totally comply with the international rule of law.
In 2016 Thailand’s seafood and fishing industries generated more than US$7 billion for the country and accounted for about 4 per cent of total Thai exports, placing the country as the third largest seafood exporter globally. Some 300,000 people are employed in the Thai fishing and seafood industry.
Feature photo John Le Fevre
Feature video John Le Fevre
Owners of fishing boats threaten to stop fishing to protest against IUU restrictions (Thai PBS)
Fisheries Department declares April June fishing ban in Andaman Sea (News Today) (video)
PM: Thai government continues to fight illegal fishing (News Today) (video)
John Le Fevre
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
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