Thailand ending IUU fishing
Thai government officials expressed optimism that the European Union would not downgrade Thailand’s standing and block its seafood products from European markets following a three-day inspection tour of Thai fisheries by an E.U. team last week.
In addition, Thai Union, one of the country’s largest seafood exporters, announced it will hire migrant and Thai workers from suppliers it has dropped because of reports some suppliers were engaging in trafficking and labor abuse. After those reports surfaced, Thai Union said it would stop buying from third-party suppliers and bring all operations in-house so it can exercise control of its supply chain and ensure that workers are treated fairly.
Worker abuse, along with environmental destruction, were among the issues that led the European Union to slap Thailand with a “yellow card”, or warning, over illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing last April. The E.U. gave Thailand six months to rectify problems or face a possible “red card”, which would ban all Thai seafood products from European markets.
The E.U. sent a team to inspect Thai fisheries from January 18 through 20, and gauge the country’s progress on solving the problems, which had built up over decades as the industry expanded and grew exponentially.
“We don’t think we will get a red card,’’ said Meesak Padkeekong, deputy chief of the Department of Fisheries, after meeting with members of the E.U. team. “We have seen positive signs from the E.U. representatives, which make us certain that in the worst case, the yellow card will be maintained. It means we have more time to fix all pending problems.”
In response to the yellow card, Thailand’s government has launched a raft of comprehensive measures to clean up the sector. Measures include bans on destructive types of fishing gear, amended laws, tighter regulations, stricter enforcement and installation of tracking devices on larger vessels. Thousands of fishing ships have stopped work because they have been unable to adhere to new laws or meet new requirements.
Despite protests by fishermen, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has refused to back down, insisting that avoiding a ban on Thai goods was more important, and that the Kingdom’s marine resources need to be protected and allowed time to recover.
The seafood and fishing industries are among a handful of industries where reports of human trafficking have been rife. Thailand has also been taking strong and comprehensive measures against all forms of human trafficking. Last week, the government submitted the first draft of its progress report on its campaign against trafficking to the United States Department of State, which is also assessing Thailand’s efforts in preparation for compiling its own rankings and annual global trafficking in persons report. The report is usually published around the middle of the year.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org