Over 8,000 trawlers facing loss of licenses in anti-IUU blitz

pix3More than 8,000 fishing trawlers face the possibility of losing their licenses for failure to conform to registration requirements as Thai authorities tighten enforcement against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in order to protect marine resources and the environment.

Furthermore, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said last week that the government would soon issue an executive decree to give it even greater powers to tackle the IUU problem with greater speed. Prawit, who oversees defense and security matters, said he will seek approval for the executive decree from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the cabinet next week.

Thailand is scheduled for a December review by the European Union, which issued a “yellow card”, or warning, to the Kingdom earlier this year for failure to address IUU problems. The steady growth of Thailand’s seafood and fishing industries had not been matched by greater government regulation, oversight and resources leading to environmental and labor abuses by some in the industries.

Since the warning was issued, the government of Prime Minister Prayut has taken comprehensive action in response to the problem, including passing new laws, founding new oversight agencies and beefing up enforcement against operators who violate laws, regulations and good practices.

The measures implemented by the government, however, will take time to become fully effective and so the Deputy Prime Minister admitted there was some uncertainty about the upcoming E.U. appraisal. “We don’t know if it will be yellow card or a red one. But we are trying our best,’’ he said.

The government’s measures have included grounding fishing boats that did not obtain licenses by a government-set deadline, banning destructive fishing gear, requiring the use of vessel tracking systems on larger trawlers and limiting fishing in certain areas to certain days.

Authorities have found, however, that the commercial fishing licenses for over 8,000 fishing boats in 22 provinces do not correspond to the size of the vessel or types of fishing that they do. Consequently, the authorities are considering a stricter crackdown and possibly revoking the licenses of those vessels.

The list of 8,024 vessels will be submitted to the National Council for Peace and Order to issue license-revocation orders, after which the continued use of those trawlers for fishing would be subject to jail terms and fines for owners and crews.

Kamolsak Letpaiboon, head of the Fishing Association of Thailand, said the ship owners should be allowed to appeal against the revocation of licenses because many boats may have missed the chance to register and obtain the correct licenses because they were fishing outside of Thailand’s waters during the registration period.

Boat owners and crews have protested to the Prime Minister several times, demanding that he revoke measures that have prevented them from fishing. The Prime Minister has consistently refused to back down.

Prawit said the government would soon come up with programs to help fishermen who have lost their livelihoods retrain for other jobs.



Thailand Focus Week of November 2, 2015
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