IUU fishing is a crime issue, says Prawit
Deputy PM calls for tougher sanctions
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 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 on Wednesday.
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 blamed the IUU for the depletion of marine resources.
IUU leads to financial losses amounting to US$5 billion (156 billion baht) a year, according to their joint statement.
They 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, the groups said.
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 and that marine ecosystems around Thailand has already begun to recover.
Fishermen and trawlers caught more 200,000 tonnes of seafood last year, with 150,000 tonnes captured by small-scale fishermen.
During the past 12 months, the operators of 223 small 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.