Thailand faces massive test in its efforts to crack down illegal fishing

Published on
December 23, 2019

The Thai government’s determination to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing has brought about fruitful outcomes – but its tough reforms have ignited protests from affected fishermen.

The European Union in January 2019 removed its yellow card from Thailand, which it received for a lack of progress in tackling IUU fishing, following the country’s push for a major upgrade of fisheries governance, in accordance with international commitments.

But its tough measures, designed to eradicate illegal fishing and address human rights abuse at sea, have hurt the kingdom’s fishing industry, resulting in protests from fishermen.

According to the Bangkok Post, about 8,000 Thai fishing trawler operators and crew from 22 coastal provinces rallied outside the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on 17 December to follow up on progress made regarding their 11-point request submitted earlier to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Their demands included calling on the government to ease fishing restrictions, address labor shortages, and fishers’ mounting debt problems. The fishermen also requested the government spend THB 10 billion (USD 331.5 million, EUR 298.8 million) to buy fishing boats from owners whose businesses had failed because of the new fishing laws.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on earlier promised to help address the labor shortage and debt issues in the fishing industry, but did not refer to the fishermen's nine other demands – including the 10-billion-baht request to buy back boats.

Chalermchai said that the government has already eased a number of regulations and introduced a raft of measures to help improve the welfare of fishermen, including providing loans, raising the number of annual fishing days, and expanding fishing grounds.

Despite mounting pressure from domestic fishing group, the government will continue to reform its seafood industry, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said in a statement released after an 18 October meeting with Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director Steve Trent, according to EJF.

Photo courtesy of Bunnavit Pangsuk/Shutterstock

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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