Group threatens rally over fishing quotas

Group threatens rally over fishing quotas

A group of trawler owners yesterday vowed to stage a big rally in Bangkok if the Department of Fisheries is adamant on imposing new fishing quotas, a move to appease the European Union after it called on the kingdom to follow sustainable measures in the seafood industry last year.

The department on Tuesday held its first meeting on its Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) initiative with the trawler owners. It would limit the amount of seafood that can be routinely harvested to avoid long-term depletion.

“We demand that the department stick to the old quota, which is the most appropriate for us,” Mongkol Sukcharoenkana, chairman of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT), told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday.

“The new system is not suitable for the ecology of Thailand’s waters,” Mr Mongkol added.

Commercial trawlers are currently permitted to fish for 240 days in the Gulf of Thailand, and 270 days for the Andaman Sea.

MSY would require them to harvest based on several criteria including weight and types of fish. The guidelines have not yet been finalized nor have the quotas for the commercial trawlers.

However, it did not stop representatives of the country’s biggest fishery operators to submit a letter expressing their opposition against the implementation of MSY.

Mr Mongkol said a department committee in charge of the implementation of MSY has not presented levelled playing field. He said there are only two commercial trawler representatives sitting in the 20-seat committee.

He accused the department incorrectly calculating data.

“The policymakers are not considering the fish caught by 70,000 fishing boats in their total marine resource calculation,” Mr Mongkol said. “How can we trust a system that came from flawed information?”

He added that the NFAT is threatening to stage a big rally in Bangkok if their demand is not met.

Mesak Pakdeekong, director-general of the Department of Fisheries, responded by inviting the NFAT to return to the negotiation table, noting commercial trawlers must cooperate.

“We can talk, there’s no reason to make threats,” Mr Mesak said.

According to Mr Mongkol, the best way to reduce overfishing is for the government to purchase 2,700 out of 10,500 commercial trawlers and clear some of them out of the ocean.

“This is the practical way to maintain trawlers and marine life,” he said.

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