Govt targets small-time fishermen

Govt targets small-time fishermen

The Department of Fisheries is about to switch their enforcement focus to small-scale fishermen who they accuse of using
The Department of Fisheries is about to switch their enforcement focus to small-scale fishermen who they accuse of using "primitive" and illegal methods. (Creative Commons photo)

The Department of Fisheries will begin targeting small-scale fishing as part of its plan to bring its marine sector in line with international standards and comply with European Union rules.

Adisorn Promthep, chief of the Department of Fisheries, said the department has plans to put restrictions on the types of tools and fishing methods used by independent local fishermen whose operations are smaller and more primitive than those of trawler companies.

The department will also look at issuing fishing licences and reviewing areas where fishing is permitted.

He said the department has made a degree of progress in eradicating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which were problems highlighted by the EU when it gave Bangkok a "yellow card" warning in 2015.

He said measures rolled out to combat illicit marine behaviour include a vessel monitoring system, port-in port-out reports, a tracing system and surveillance.

But to maintain the department's top priority of sustaining marine life, cooperation from local fisherman, or folk fishermen, is needed as well.

The department's actions towards small-scale fishing comes amid concerns that tighter regulations on trawlers may prompt companies to farm out their operations to individuals, which would pose a problem of overfishing.

Similarly, the curbing of trawler activity has opened up the market for small fishermen looking to increase their catch, he added.

According to the department, there are about 26,000 folk fishing boats and 11,237 registered trawlers. It is believed there are about 1,200 illegal trawlers that failed to register under the department's regulation.

Over the past two years, the European Union has put pressure on the Thai government over its fishing regulations, threatening to ban seafood imports from Thailand to EU members.

The EU has said Thailand's seafood industry is eroding the sustainability of marine resources, with the government failing to crack down on illegal labour.

Over the past two years, the Thai government has made efforts to deal with these problems by setting up a Command Centre for Combating Illegal Fishing, announcing a fishing decree, and enforcing migrant worker registration, Mr Adisorn said.

"The EU has shown appreciation for our efforts, but it needs to see active law enforcement and that the systems we have already set up are functioning well," he said.

"Over the next two years, we will see whether EU decides to ban our exports. We have had both formal and informal discussions with the EU and much progress has been made," he said, adding EU representatives will mount their next inspection in four months.

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