U.N. praises Thailand for progress in cleaning up fishing sector

A top United Nations official praised nations including Thailand last week for signing on to the first international agreement against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as Thai government officials said the use of new technology will eventually reduce abuses in the fishing industry, including human trafficking.

Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called on more governments to ratify the Agreement of Port State Measures, which specifically targets IUU fishing. He made the call during a ceremony in Rome to mark the first International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Thailand recently became the first Asian nation to sign the document.

“For the [agreement] to be very effective, we need every country onboard,” Graziano da Silva said. “I would like to congratulate all of those countries, and urge all other countries to join this global effort to eliminate illegal fishing.”

Graziano da Silva presented the Thai officials who attended the ceremony in Rome with a scroll marking the Kingdom’s ratification of the agreement. The officials said that the FAO director general told them on the sidelines that he was pleased with Thailand for becoming a party to the agreement and that he recognized the Kingdom’s recent progress on the issue.

The FAO said in a press release that IUU fishing is costing the world $23 billion each year. IUU fishing, FAO said, has negative impacts on livelihoods, fish stocks and the environment, and among the losers are small-scale fishermen. It may also be connected to other illicit activities such as trafficking of narcotics and weapons, human trafficking, labor abuses and even slavery, the organization said.

“We have all the necessary instruments in place to achieve our goal, but for that we also need strong commitment from governments and all relevant stakeholders,” Graziano da Silva said.

Among those instruments are technologies such vessel monitoring systems (VMS) that are used to track the locations of fishing trawlers. Thailand now requires Thai-owned fishing ships larger than 30 tons to have VMS.

“Thailand has introduced a raft of modern technologies since 2015 – from satellites to optical scanning and electronic payment services – to crack down on abuses in its multi-billion-dollar fishing industry,’’ Reuters news agency recently reported, while cautioning that technology alone can not solve the problem if commitment by the authorities is not genuine.

“We are serious,” said Weerachon Sukhontapatipak, a Thai government spokesman, while adding that the adoption of new technologies would not instantly eliminate IUU fishing, human trafficking or labor abuse, but that it will definitely make a difference and there will be abrupt change.