Thailand hosts ASEAN-SEAFDEC cooperative forum and joins hands with other countries in developing Joint Declaration to combat IUU fishing and enhance sustainable fisheries development in the region

Thailand hosts a regional cooperative forum for sustainable fisheries towards the ASEAN Economic Community, and joins hands with other Southeast Asian countries to come up with Joint Declaration to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that would foster multi-lateral cooperation for enhancing the competitiveness of ASEAN fish and fishery products in compliance with international standards and regulations to ensure sustainable food security of the region.

On 3 August 2016 at 9.00 hrs. at Ballroom B, 23rd floor of the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center at Central World, Bangkok, Thailand through its Department of Fisheries, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives hosted the “High-level Consultation on Regional Cooperation in Sustainable Fisheries Development Towards the ASEAN Economic Community: Combating IUU Fishing and Enhancing the Competitiveness of ASEAN Fish and Fishery Products.” The Consultation was officiated by Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. At this event, high-level officials from ASEAN and SEAFDEC Member Countries came up with the “Joint ASEAN-SEAFDEC Declaration on Regional Cooperation for Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Enhancing the Competitiveness of ASEAN Fish and Fishery Product.” In attendance were over 100 delegates from ASEAN-SEAFDEC countries, comprising Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, officials of ASEAN, SEAFDEC as well as representatives from relevant international/regional organizations.

“Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated or IUU fishing is considered as serious threat to the sustainability of fishery resources and marine environment, and is under serious concern of several countries including the ASEAN,” said Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Thailand has always joined hands with Southeast Asian countries and others in taking part to develop policy frameworks for combating IUU fishing. It is therefore a great pleasure for Thailand to host this High-level Consultation as it signifies the country’s seriousness towards combating IUU fishing, and enhancing cooperation with other countries to solve the issue. IUU fishing problems are however complicated considering the nature of fishery resources that are shared by several countries, labor-related issues, while products are being intra-regionally traded prior to exportation. These problems could not be addressed by countries individually, but require cooperation among concerned agencies and with regional collaboration to enhance the effectiveness in combating of IUU fishing.

Development of Joint Declaration by high-level officials of ASEAN and SEAFDEC at this Consultation is therefore a signal that demonstrates the seriousness in enhancing cooperation among countries to combat IUU fishing, taking into consideration aspects on: strengthening of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) programs; Enhancing traceability of fish and fishery products from capture fisheries and aquaculture; Managing Fishing Capacity; Enhancing regional cooperation; Addressing quality and safety requirements; Addressing issues on labor in fisheries sector; and Enhancing fishery resources to mitigate impacts from IUU fishing.

Dr. Adisorn Promthep, Director-General of the Department of Fisheries further explained on the reformation of Thai’s fisheries policy with the new Royal Ordinance on Fisheries 2015 that corresponds with current fishery situation and emerging international requirements, with the establishment of Marine Fisheries Management Plan to address problems on overfishing capacity, by freezing the registration of new fishing vessels. The fishing license regime was also rectified by replacing the open-access to fisheries with limited-access, with application of the MSY system. Monitoring, control and surveillance system has also been enhanced through the establishment of Port-in/Port-out controls. Catch Certificate Scheme has been developed to enhance the traceability of fish and fishery products, and a system has also been established to support the implementation of Port State Measures. Furthermore, on 10 May 2016, Thailand also submitted the Instrument of Accession to the Agreement on Port State Measures, which is one of the key international agreements aimed at combating IUU fishing; and it is anticipated that Thailand’s accession to the PSMA will enhance control over foreign-flagged fishing vessels and prevent the entry of IUU fish and fishery products into the country.

It is expected that this High-level Consultation would lead to closer cooperation among the ASEAN Member States to combat IUU fishing and enhancing the competitiveness of fish and fishery products from ASEAN, while the possibility for development of common ASEAN fisheries policy needs to be further explored leading to clearer picture toward sustainable fishery resources utilization in the light of the ASEAN Economic Community.