Govt mulls buying back more trawlers, ease rules

Govt mulls buying back more trawlers, ease rules

The government has agreed to help commercial fishing operations by pledging to consider buying back more trawlers from companies affected by the regulations and relaxing several fishing regulations.

"The government has been working hard to find ways to respond to the demands of those affected by the government's fishing regulations, which were aimed at solving illegal, unreported and unregulated [IUU] fishing in Thailand," said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek on Sunday after the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT) threatened to stage a mass protest in Bangkok.

She said the prime minister has made the fishing industry a national priority and ordered state bodies to listen to local fishermen and associations like NFAT to fine-tune its policies.

The government introduced a raft of tough fishing rules to convince the European Union -- a major importer of Thai seafood products -- to withdraw Thailand's yellow card status over IUU fishing issues.

The EU finally did so in January last year, but the NFAT -- the country's largest trawler-operators organisation -- claims the rules have caused the fishing industry to suffer.

The association is pushing the government to relax several rules, including a requirement for trawlers to have a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) installed, which allows authorities to monitor their real-time movements.

It is also demanding the government to buy back some 2,505 vessels which it claimed to have been affected by the the government's anti-IUU policies.

Ms Rachada said the government is working on revising some rules, before adding the government has already approved 764.45 million baht to buy back 305 vessels and would seek more budget to buy back 263 more boats.

The deputy spokeswoman said the government will provide low-interest loans worth 10.3 billion baht to encourage fishermen to improve their equipment to meet international regulations.

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