EJF clarifies director’s comments on Thailand

Published on
December 8, 2016

On Monday, 5 December, SeafoodSource reported on comments made by Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director Steve Trent to The Nation during the Asia Regional Conference on Building Ocean Health in Seoul, South Korea last week. On Wednesday, 7 December, EJF sent a letter to SeafoodSource seeking to clarify Trent’s comments and EJF’s position on Thailand’s progress in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses in the Thai seafood industry. The complete letter is below:

On 29 to 30 November, EJF joined the Korean Ministry of Fisheries and WWF in co-hosting an Asian region conference “Building Oceans Health: Sharing experiences to move towards sustainable fisheries management.”

The aim of the conference was to bring together key policy, private sector and non-governmental stakeholders to promote sustainability in fisheries, address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and share lessons learned in fisheries management. The Royal Thai Government (RTG) was one of the regional stakeholders invited to participate in the conference, and to present on the measures it has taken to combat illegal fishing and the associated human rights abuses.

In its article “EU ‘Green card’ for Thailand expected over IUU fishing,” The Nation needs to provide greater context, noting EJF Executive Director Steve Trent's explicit message and statement that to achieve a green card, substantive further reforms and actions still have to be taken by the RTG and industry in the Thai seafood sector.

However, if they are to succeed, these measures specifically need to incorporate the ratification and full implementation of ILO Conventions C188 Work in Fishing, C87 Freedom of Association, C98 Collective Bargaining, as well the urgent amendment of Articles 88 and 101 of the country's 1975 Labor Relations Act (LRA), which still legally prevents migrant workers from creating labor unions or holding leadership roles in unions.

EJF analysis of the current fisheries and human rights situation in Thailand, including our most recent report and film "Thailand’s Seafood Slaves," clearly shows that there is no evidence to suggest that a ‘Green Card’ would, or should, be warranted.

Meanwhile, our organization continues to work with the Thai government to push for further reforms that would tackle the ongoing issues facing the country’s seafood industry. Please see our recent press statement issued after EJF’s meeting with Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan in October 2016.

While it is important to acknowledge the complexity of the challenges the RTG is trying to address, as well the positive commitment and progress made by the government to date, its reforms in their current state and extent are unquestionably inadequate to sufficiently address illegal fishing or the widespread human rights and labor abuses in its seafood sector.

EJF believes that the Thai government is capable of addressing these issues, and that it can do so by both sustaining its current measures in the long-term and expanding them to address the drivers and underlying causes of illegal fishing and slavery.

This will require additional, substantial efforts to adequately improve Thai fisheries, to tackle weak enforcement and widespread corruption within them, and to reform the country’s labour regulations, which continue to expose migrant workers in Thailand to exploitation and abuse.

Steve Trent says of the action needed: "If the Royal Thai Government is able to achieve success in delivering the fundamental changes so desperately needed to protect human rights, eradicate illegal fishing and secure sustainability in its seafood sector, it will bring profoundly important economic, social and environmental benefits for Thailand that will far outweigh the costs of these measures. Such action would highlight and emphasize a new commitment to human rights and sustainable fisheries management – a commitment that will resonate and be applauded globally.”

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