Thailand advocates for regional anti-IUU network

Protecting the oceans is a priority for Thailand, and so the country has proposed that the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) establish a regional network to prevent illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, during last week’s summit in Bangkok.

“Thailand is very proud of its success in tackling IUU. We hope to see further international cooperation in dealing with the issue. We also want to see the United Nations treating IUU fishing as a crime for which the culprits must be punished,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said recently.

He added that as this year’s ASEAN chair, Thailand would make eradicating IUU a priority. To achieve that, partnerships and a regional framework are needed.

Thailand is the world’s third-largest exporter of seafood, and so protecting marine resources is crucial for the Kingdom’s economy, its people’s livelihoods, and, most importantly, the environment shared by everyone in the region and the world.

In that regard, Thailand has moved from bad apple to best practitioner. Three years ago, the European Union warned Thailand it could ban seafood imports from the Kingdom if it did not seriously tackle IUU fishing by its commercial fleets. Since then, Thailand has enacted sweeping reforms of the sector.

Early this year, the European Union removed its warning in recognition of Thailand’s progress and achievements in combatting IUU fishing. IUU is not just a problem for Thailand, however. The oceans are borderless, and the issue poses a threat to nearly all of Southeast Asia.

Except for landlocked Laos, the ten ASEAN countries all have extensive coastlines and rely on the blue economy for growth and jobs. Reforms enacted by one country could be undercut unless its neighbors are on board and following similar regimes.

Thailand’s proposal for an ASEAN anti-IUU network would result in coordinated efforts to rid the region of the problem.