Government launches command center to stop illegal fishing

Thailand’s government opened a command center last week to coordinate efforts to stop illegal, unreported and undocumented (IUU) fishing by Thai and other vessels in the region. The command center will be supervised by the head of the Royal Thai Navy and housed at the Navy headquarters in Bangkok.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees defense and security matters, also invited the European Union (E.U.) ambassador to a briefing last week on the steps Thailand is taking to stop IUU fishing. Last month, the E.U. issued Thailand a “yellow card,” a warning that it will face possible sanctions or bans on its seafood in European markets unless Thailand takes a tougher line on IUU fishing.

“I also want to know the reasons the E.U. lifted what they’ve called ‘yellow cards’ issued on some countries – what [those countries] did that satisfied the E.U. on the matter,” Prawit said. He added that the E.U. had not explained clearly the details about the measures Thailand needs to take for the E.U. to rescind the yellow card.

E.U. Ambassador Jesús Miguel Sanz Escorihuela said he would inform the E.U. and member countries on Thailand’s progress, and assured the deputy prime minister that the E.U. would work with Thailand in a constructive and cooperative way to solve the problems in the fishing industry. Thailand and Indonesia have already agreed to work together on this issue that affects both countries.

Royal Thai Navy commander-in-chief Admiral Kraisorn Chansuwanich said there will be meetings at the new fishing command center on May 6 and May 18 to follow up on work in progress. Thailand will need time to complete the installations of vessel monitoring systems (VMS) in about 5,000 vessels over 60 tons, so he hoped the E.U. would understand. Cooperation from fishing boats was also vital, he said. There are about 30,000 fishing boats in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea.

Thailand also is a victim of IUU fishing. Last week, the Navy seized three fishing boats from Viet Nam off Koh Kra in southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province for allegedly fishing in Thai waters with no permit.

The arrests were made after Thai fishing boats alerted the Navy at Songkhla. The three boats and 15 crewmen were escorted to Songkhla, where they were charged with illegal entry and fishing without a license. Some 64 Vietnamese vessels have been arrested for illegally fishing in Thai waters since last September.


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