Navy makes first seizure of trawler fishing illegally

2The Royal Thai Navy made its first seizure of a Thai trawler fishing illegally in restricted areas last week as the Prime Minister once again refused to roll back new regulations against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing despite protests by hundreds of boat owners.

The Navy’s patrol boat Kraburi was on duty in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Chonburi province last Thursday when it spotted the trawler Sinsuwan Waree 3 with a gross weight of 30 tons fishing in the restricted area and stopped it for a search. The boat had six crewmen, three Thais and three Cambodians, and was operating without a port-out certificate. Under new regulations in force since July 1, all fishing boats are required to register and obtain port-in/port-out certificates as part of an overall monitoring system to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and human trafficking.

The Kraburi escorted the rogue vessel to Sattahip, where the Navy has a major base. The owner and captain were charged with not being able to show the boat’s registration papers when asked; helping illegal migrants enter the country and providing them with shelter; failing to comply with a government order by not reporting its departure to sea according to the port-in and port-out regulation, and not having a logbook to report daily catches.

Meanwhile, in Phuket last week, a standoff was taking place between Navy and Customs officials and a foreign-registered vessel known as Kunlun that was holding an illicit cargo of Chilean sea bass, a protected species because it has been overfished.

The government drafted and is implementing a raft of comprehensive new regulations to fight IUU fishing and human trafficking. The owners of over 3,000 fishing vessels protested to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for a second time last week, demanding he relax the rules and extend deadlines for registering ships. The Prime Minister has held his ground, telling boat owners they had had several months to register and that the industry must be cleaned up without delay.

The rapid growth of Thailand’s fishing industry, worth roughly $7 billion a year, has seen the number of vessels engaged in commercial fishing grow far above and beyond the number that fisheries officials say Thailand’s marine environment can handle. Overfishing has resulted in ecological degradation, smaller and smaller catches, and vessels ranging into protected areas in search of more fish.

Smaller catches bring fewer financial returns, and to keep costs down some boat owners have turned to illegal migrants to staff their boats. Some have sourced the migrants from human trafficking syndicates and have subjected the crewmembers to forced labor and other abuses.

The European Union has threatened to ban seafood imports from Thailand unless the Kingdom takes significant action against IUU fishing. The problems of IUU fishing, trafficking and abuse are not limited to Thai vessels, although Thailand has one of the larger commercial fishing fleets in the region. A recent series by the New York Times entitled “The Outlaw Ocean” has been highlighting IUU fishing, forced labor and murders in various parts around the world.


Thailand Focus July 28, 2015
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