Fishermen call for fair solution to cockle war

Fishermen call for fair solution to cockle war

Coastal fishermen seeking a catch of cockles return to areas where the farms are located in Phunphin district of Surat Thani on Friday. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)
Coastal fishermen seeking a catch of cockles return to areas where the farms are located in Phunphin district of Surat Thani on Friday. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)

SURAT THANI: Fishermen are calling for clearer guidelines on cockle catches as their conflict with shellfish farmers drags on despite intervention from provincial authorities.

Pasit Buaklai, a fisherman in Kanchanadit district, said on Friday authorities need to clearly define the areas where small-boat fishermen can harvest cockles, or hoi kraeng, also known as blood clams. 

Mr Pasit said he drove his boat from Kanchanadit to Phunphin district to harvest the blood cockles, only to find that he and other fishermen were still blocked by farmers, who defied provincial authorities' ruling that the sea 5.4 kilometres off the coast is public domain.

Cockle farmers, who have invested millions of baht setting up breeding facilities off the coast, have erected bamboo fences around the areas they illegally claim, with watch-huts on stilts, to keep out  the  fishermen, who claim the public right to harvest the profitable shellfish.

The conflict reached a new high on Wednesday when investor Santi Nuansaen fired a pistol into the air  from his jet ski to drive coastal fishermen away from his cockle farm in Phunphin district waters. He was later charged by police with discharging a firearm in public.

About 200 coastal boats returned to the disputed locations on Thursday and Friday, with both farm owners and authorities keeping a close watch on them.

The province sent navy personnel, police and defence volunteers into the areas on Friday, to prevent further conflict.

Suchao Tomusik, the chief of the Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, warned both sides that authorities would not hesitate to take legal action if there is further violence on the seas. 


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