Fishing industry works with Thai government on IUU, labor

The Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force, a body established last year to ensure that Thailand’s seafood supply chain is free from illegal and forced labor, has been actively working with the Thai Government to help make the industry more accountable, transparent and verifiable.

The task force was set up in July 2014 as an international industry alliance, with members including leading retailers, manufacturers, government and NGOs.

In a recent statement, the Task Force said it recognizes that human rights issues such as illegal and forced labor and marine conservation problems are both linked with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and its objectives are based on the need to combat these.

Objectives include the successful implementation of track and trace systems with international verification from feed mill to fishing vessel; the driving of Thai port codes of conduct; a vessel monitoring system (VMS) trial for subsequent rollout, and working up the business case, costings and funding proposals for fishery improvement projects in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.

At a recent seminar held in Brussels by the Thai government, officials pointed out the extensive work already under way to combat IUU. However, the seminar coincided with the EU handing Thailand a Yellow Card for its lack of progress, which the Thai government readily refuted in an official statement:

“The Royal Thai Government takes allegations of IUU fishing very seriously and has done so for many years. Efforts to tackle illegal fishing and improve the sustainable management of marine and aquaculture environments are a top political priority.”

Waraporn Prompoj, deputy director general of the department of fisheries, announced that Thailand’s roadmap for improvement would be completed by September 2015.

“The roadmap includes the registration and licensing of all fishing vessels which began in February 2015; the introduction of a new fisheries act and subordinate legislation which was adopted in January 2015 and will come into force in July 2015; an improved traceability system introduced in January 2015; a National Plan of Action for IUU which will be in place by August 2015; patrols at sea will be strengthened by June 2015; VMS centers were introduced in March 2015 and will be active in all regions by June 2015; and port-in, port-out controls are currently being trialed and will be implemented by August 2015,” she said.

Work is also in hand on fisheries conservation and management measures, with the introduction of closed seasons, fisheries enhancement/stocking programs and the introduction of artificial reefs.

To enable the Thai government to see best practice in sustainable and responsible fishing practice at first hand, the task force invited senior government members and the president of an influential Thai fishing association to visit the Southwest of England in April 2015.

“This was a discovery trip, the aim being to share industry learnings and similar experiences of a mixed species fishery,” explained organizer and task force coordinator Martin Thurley.

“Over the past 30 years, the U.K. fishing industry has transformed itself and is now well on the way to recovery. The task force was able to demonstrate how effective fisheries management can help provide the route to a sustainable fishery and to maximizing revenue capture.”

The visit included discussions and presentations from Seafish, the South West Producers’ Organization and the Cornish Fishermen’s Producer Organization. The delegation witnessed an innovative fishing gear modification project in which 50 percent of the beam trawl fleet has modified their fishing gear to reduce sea bed impact, reduce non-target by-catch, and improve their fuel costs.

“We also helped the visitors to understand how collaboration is an important part of the picture. The fishing industry works together to help manage quota and VMS data across the U.K., and scientists work with fishermen and government using a bottom-up approach, and this has proved to be essential methodology for sustainable growth,” said Thurley.


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