Thailand wants to reduce vessel numbers to tackle IUU fishing

2 iuu1Thai officials are seeking ways to reduce the number of trawlers in the country’s commercial fishing fleet in an effort to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as the head of one marine conservation group said the number of marine animals has been rebounding thanks to anti-IUU measures already implemented by the government.

Thailand currently has 11,237 registered commercial fishing trawlers, and that is more than the seas around the Kingdom can sustainably handle, said Phadeomsak Charayaphaphan, a former director of Chulalongkorn University’s Aquatic Resources Research Institute. Fish stocks in Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand have been declining steadily over the past two decades.

Some in the private sector concurred with the academic’s view. Chanin Chalisarapong, president of the Thai Tuna Industry Association, said he agrees with the idea of reducing the number of large fishing trawlers by about 2,000 ships. Environmental groups have singled out tuna in particular as being under threat from overfishing worldwide, and Thailand is a major player in the tuna industry.

A smaller fleet would also have positive ripple effects on labor rights and human trafficking, Chanin added.

“If we can reduce the number of fishing boats, we will be able to cut the number of workers and keep costs low so that we have more money to pay the workers and improve fairness,” Chanin told The Nation newspaper.

Thailand’s government has been implementing a comprehensive set of laws and measures to exercise more effective control of the country’s fishing and seafood industries after two decades of explosive growth that has resulted in IUU fishing becoming relatively widespread. IUU fishing is a global problem that is not limited to Thailand’s fishing fleets.

More than Thai 8,000 fishing vessels had their licenses revoked during the past year because they could not conform to the new laws and regulations. Tens of thousands of inspections have been carried out at 28 new Port-In/Port-Out centers along the Kingdom’s coastlines.  Vessels larger than 60 tons have installed monitoring systems so authorities can track their movements. Bans have been imposed on destructive types of fishing gear and limitations on where and when vessels can fish in order to protect resources.

While more work needs to be done, the measures already implemented have been producing some positive results. The number of marine animals in Thai coastal waters has significantly increased, according Banchong Nasae, president of an association called Rak Thale Thai (Thai Seas Conservation).

The bans on destructive fishing gear and fishing in spawning areas has led to fewer young fish being caught. Allowed to mature and begin breeding themselves, fish populations have begun to rebound, Banchong said. Chanin added that fewer fishing vessels would also contribute to allowing fish populations to recover.