European Union removes yellow card on Thai fishing sector

Thailand has cleaned up its act and been rewarded for it. The European Union lifted its yellow card, or warning of a possible ban, on Thai seafood last week over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and praised the effective action of the Thai government to reform and implement better governance of the fishing sector during the past three years.

“We have decided to lift the yellow card because Thailand has aligned its legal and administrative systems with its international obligations to fight IUU fishing. That may sound like a dry technical phrase. But let me assure you, there has been a lot of hard, honest work behind it,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, while announcing the decision in Brussels.

The European Union (EU) had issued the yellow card to Thailand in April 2015 because of persistent and unresolved problems with IUU fishing that successive governments had failed to adequately address. Thailand is the world’s third-largest exporter of fish products, and the peril to the Thai economy was clear.

The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took the issue seriously, however, and has been implementing a broad menu of actions, reforms, legal changes, and enforcement to bring Thailand’s fishing industry in line with international environmental, labor, and business standards. IUU fishing is a global problem, and several developed countries have also been cited for violations.

The EU detailed the damage IUU fishing causes and praised Thailand’s efforts and dedication as it announced the removal of the yellow card.

“I am excited that today we have a new committed partner in this fight. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing damages global fish stocks, but it also hurts the people living from the sea, especially those already vulnerable to poverty. Fighting illegal fishing is, therefore, a priority for the EU,” Vella said.

The Thailand chapter of Greenpeace, the global environmental advocacy group, praised the decision and the efforts made by Thailand’s government and private sector, while also stressing that the fight against IUU must be sustained and more actions taken.

“We applaud the Thai government for taking the necessary and essential steps towards reform in the Thai fishing industry,” said Tara Buakamsri, the country director for Greenpeace Thailand.

“It is imperative that private, public and third sector stakeholders both in and outside of Thailand all continue to take responsibility and work together to ensure that only sustainable and ethically produced Thai seafood reaches shelves, freezers, sushi bars, and cat bowls around the world,” Buakamsri added.

The reforms implemented by the Thai government did not come without some resistance. Some fishing operators and fishermen have complained the measures are too strict and want the authorities to be more lenient.