Government readies to implement laws against IUU fishing

TF June 8_3.pngThailand’s government is preparing to implement the first amendments to the country’s fishing laws in decades on June 27 in an effort to reverse a deteriorating environment in its coastal waters and meet regulations required by the European Union for exporting seafood to its markets.

The amendments to the Fisheries Act are designed to produce a better-regulated fishing industry, which should also have a positive impact on Thailand’s fight against human trafficking. Some victims of trafficking have ended up working as forced laborers on fishing trawlers, and the lax oversight of the industry has meant that victims and their abusers have escaped detection, identification and rescue.

Lax oversight and regulations have also led to a situation where Thailand’s coastal waters and the seas in the region are being overfished, threatening the sustainability of both the seafood industry and the regional marine environment.

The amendment improves port-state measures, and introduces serious and deterrent sanctions, including a maximum fine of 30 million baht (approximately $900,000) for Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. In addition, the government has established 28 port-in port-out controlling centers in coastal provinces to improve monitoring and control surveillance. Most has begun operating fully since May 6.

“It is an understatement to say changes to Thailand’s surveillance of its seas don’t end there. The most significant of these efforts have already been splashed all over international media through coverage of the navy’s efforts to help stranded migrants at sea. The Thai navy is bringing aid to stranded migrants in the Andaman Sea,’’ wrote the Undercurrent News website, a UK-based business news and information website for the seafood industry.

A special government unit has been set up to combat illegal fishing unit, and it directly reports to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The government is also in the process of finalizing its National Plan of Action to Combat, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing. The plan outlines strategies to tackle IUU fishing systematically. After endorsement by the cabinet, the government will work with a variety of stakeholders to implement it.

The European Union had threatened to sanction Thailand’s seafood industry and not allow seafood imports from the Kingdom unless it cleaned up its fishing industry. However, E.U. officials have said they want to work constructively with Thailand to help remedy the situation and would prefer to see a more positive outcome.

The amendment to the law and the other measures taken should provide ample evidence that the current government is serious about tackling the problem. “Many governments have tried [to amend the law] before, but it was high time to amend it,” a Thai official told the Undercurrent News.

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