Fishermen strike over new regulations

Fishermen strike over new regulations

Operators up in arms over IUU measures

Owners of trawlers in the South returned to port and parked their fishing boats in protest over new port in-port out (PIPO) regulations. (File photo)
Owners of trawlers in the South returned to port and parked their fishing boats in protest over new port in-port out (PIPO) regulations. (File photo)

More than a thousand fishing boats yesterday went on strike against the government's stringent measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Boat operators from southern provinces such as Krabi and Satun sailed their vessels to Pattani Pier in order to put pressure on the government. They said the new legislation is impractical. Many fishery operators claimed they were now afraid of sailing out to sea for fear of violating the laws.

The regulations, they said, require every fisherman on board to wear a life jacket and employers to copy their payroll slips to be sent to Port In, Port Out (Pipo) centres, a process which operators claim is a burden.

Pattani Fisheries Association head Phubest Chantanimi said he wants the government to take care of fishermen troubled by stringent laws. "The operators have agreed to stop working indefinitely until the problem is properly addressed," Mr Phubest said yesterday, adding that representatives of fishery operators would hold a meeting with government officials at Government House today.

Responding to reports that fishermen would go on strike to oppose the government's harsh IUU-tackling measures brought against them, deputy prime minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who oversees IUU simply said he doubted they would.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit expressed no worries that the protest is being ramped up at a time when EU delegates are carrying out their survey of Thailand's fishing industry, and said the fishermen had already been invited for talks with relevant agencies.

Meanwhile, a European Union (EU) team surveying how the government has tackled the problem of IUU has praised the government's efforts.

Speaking after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit at the Defence Ministry yesterday, Stefaan Depypere, the EU's director for international ocean governance and sustainable fisheries, said Thailand has made a lot of progress on the problem and provided a model for other countries to follow.

Mr Depypere, who is leading a team on a one-week survey trip, also urged the government to follow through various policies it has rolled out. He insisted that if everyone complies with the regulations, it would be a boon for the industry and fishermen's long-term livelihoods.

Success in tackling the IUU fishing, he stressed, would be beneficial to the Thai economy as a whole. The EU investigation trip will conclude tomorrow.

The European Union gave Thailand a "yellow card", or a final warning, in 2015 for its failure to effectively stop IUU fishing. A ban on the export of processed seafood to Europe was threatened if the country failed to adequately address the issue.

The government has announced an "IUU-free Thailand" directive with a committee to be formed to formulate an effective, environmental and labour rights friendly, policy.

Thailand is currently in the top three global exporters of fish products.

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