Government to buy back 1,900 'illegal' fishing trawlers

Government to buy back 1,900 'illegal' fishing trawlers

After inspections in April of last year, the government refused to licence some 1,900 fishing trawlers that were not able to meet new regulations governing deep-sea fishing.
After inspections in April of last year, the government refused to licence some 1,900 fishing trawlers that were not able to meet new regulations governing deep-sea fishing.

The government says it is forced to buy, and presumably will destroy 1,900 fishing trawlers it cannot licence because of strict new deep-sea fishing laws.

According to Defence Ministry spokesman Col Kongcheep Tantravanich, the steering committee devising the government's fisheries policy, has agreed in principle to buy boats as a placatory gesture.

Though the committee failed to disclose the amount of money for buying the commercial trawlers, it said it would send the proposal to the cabinet for approval.

About 1,900 boats became inoperable over the past two years after authorities denied licences by imposing tough regulatory conditions. The administration began tightening its grip on fishermen and trawlers after the local fishery industry was yellow-carded by the European Union in 2015.

Since then, authorities have amended fisheries laws and introduced what it called "maximum sustainable yields" to solve over-fishing. One of the aims was to attain sustainable fishing by limiting the number of boats and the number of fish harvesting days. As a result, 1,900 boats were grounded permanently and the numbers of harvesting days slashed from 300 to 210.

The Thai Fishery Association, which represents large-scale commercial trawlers, has petitioned the government to help fishermen affected by its tough polices. They asked the government to buy back fishing boats to offset its losses. Recently, the association, which has around 57 networks of fishermen along coastal provinces, threatened to march to Government House and pressure the government.

Meanwhile, the steering committee, headed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, has agreed to establish a fishery fund to help needy fishermen.

Initially, the committee plans to take 130 million baht from the revenue that the Royal Fishery Department had collected from issuing commercial fishery licences. Another source of money, about 650 million baht, will come from the Government Saving Bank via a soft loan.

"Gen Prawit insists that all state agencies must come together to help Thailand's fishery industry. If we cannot do that, the country will see 100 billion baht [revenue from exports] disappear. If we cannot solve the IUU problem, officials must be held responsible.This problem is similar to the case of Thailand's aviation industry," Col Kongcheep said.

The government is planning to make the announcement on Dec 27 as a New Year's gift to fishermen.

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