Fisheries inspections net violators, resulting in prosecutions

The net cast by Thai law enforcement has been catching impressive numbers of human traffickers and labor abusers in the country’s fishing and seafood industries, with police sending nearly 600 cases to prosecutors since 2015 as 11 percent of all ship and factory inspections have resulted in arrests and charges filed, Thai officials said last week.

The number of arrests and cases lodged underscores Thailand’s commitment to cleaning up its fishing and seafood sectors, protecting the rights of the vulnerable, and bringing wrongdoers to justice. Of the 590 cases submitted to prosecutors during the past three years, 87 were human trafficking cases. Despite these achievements, Thai officials recognize that more needs to be done to eliminate trafficking and labor abuse in the country’s $7 billion-a-year fishing and seafood industries.

“As a result of the efforts, the overall situation of workers in the fisheries sector of Thailand over the past three years has drastically improved. Nevertheless, the Thai government continues to pay close attention and try its utmost to increase the effectiveness of enforcement of those measures to ensure that workers in the fisheries sector receive full legal rights and protections,” the government said in a letter to an advocacy group.

In response, the current government has been implementing a comprehensive campaign to fight human trafficking, adopting a rights-based, zero-tolerance approach that involves all of society.

Among the challenges of eliminating human trafficking and labor abuse in the fishing industry is that in many cases the crimes are taking place at sea where enforcement is logistically more difficult. But Thailand has now established special arrest teams that inspect vessels at sea. During eleven days of sea inspections during March, Thai officials made arrests resulting in 50 cases of fishing-related crimes, including abuse, trafficking and environmental crimes. The cases involved both Thai and non-Thai vessels operating in Thai waters.