Prawit urges UN to get tough on illegal fishing

Prawit urges UN to get tough on illegal fishing

Illegal fishing should be made an environmental crime, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says.
Illegal fishing should be made an environmental crime, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon on Wednesday called on the United Nations to make Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing an environmental crime.

“Thailand is very proud of its success in tackling IUU. We hope to see further international cooperation in dealing with the issue. We also want to see the United Nations not only considering cases of fishing destruction, but also treating IUU fishing as a crime for which the culprits must be punished,” Gen Prawit told an audience at a forum on IUU fishing.

He said that as this year's chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Thailand will make eradicating IUU a priority.

One of the steps to be taken, according to Gen Prawit, is setting up an Asean regional mechanism to suppress IUU and share related information. 

Thailand, he said, will encourage members of Asean to adopt the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), to eradicate illegal trawlers.

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Wednesday issued a joint statement blaming IUU for the depletion of marine resources. IUU leads to financial losses amounting to US$5 billion (156 billion baht) a year, according to the statement.

The statement stressed that IUU activities are considered to be transnational crimes, alongside piracy, human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Eliminating IUU fishing will ensure the region’s future food security, protect livelihoods, improve working standards, help protect marine resources and sustainability, and provide a thriving blue economy, according to the statement.

The FAO, ILO and IOM pledged to help countries in the Asia-Pacific use the PSMA, the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (C188) and the 2012 Cape Town Agreement that sets fishing vessel standards to protect crew safety.

Adisorn Promthep, chief of the Department of Fisheries, said tackling the IUU scourge will help return Thai seas to an equilibrium.

Since being yellow-carded by the European Union (EU) for IUU infringements in 2015, Mr Adisorn said the country has worked hard to reform its fisheries sector.

He said marine life around Thailand has already begun to rejuvenate.

Fishermen and trawlers caught more 200,000 tonnes of seafood last year, with 150,000 tonnes captured by small-scale fishermen.

Data from the Department of Fisheries also indicted tough law enforcement over the past three years as Thailand worked hard to convince the EU to lift the IUU yellow card.

During the past 12 months, the operators of 223 small-scale fishing boats and 226 large-commercial ones have been charged with IUU offences.  There are currently more than 22,0000 small fishing boats and about 10,600 large trawlers in operation.

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