EU 'pleased' with fishery effort

EU 'pleased' with fishery effort

The European Union's top diplomat in Thailand says the country's efforts to reform its fishery sector are heading in the right direction, according to deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

He made the comment following a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and Jesús Miguel Sanz, the Head of the EU Delegation to Thailand. Gen Prawit explained Thailand's new guidelines and progress made in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the ambassador was "very pleased", said the spokesman.

The EU in April gave Thailand six months to clean up its fishery industry, which has become notorious for forced labour and other illegal practices. Failure to do so could result in a ban on imports of Thai seafood, which would cost the country about $500 million a year.

The ambassador pledged to relay the message to the EU and the capitals of all EU countries so they would be aware of the determination of the Thai government, Maj Gen Sansern said.

"The deputy PM clarified several key points to the ambassador and admitted openly that there remained various unsolved problems," he said. "[Gen Prawit] also told him the government was determined to solve the problem cautiously and sustainably."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order, has invoked Section 44 of the interim constitution to speed up the process of fishery reform. It calls for the establishment of an anti-IUU command centre, led by the navy chief. As well, the military will be involved in registration and monitoring of fishing vessels.

Maj Gen Sansern said Gen Prawit explained that the use of Section 44 was not a cure-all and was used only to expedite emergency measures.

One of the new requirements is for fishing boats of at least 30 gross tonnes to keep logbook records of leaving and entering ports. They also have to install a GPS system to track vessel movements. They are also prohibited from using illegal fishing gear and slave labour. Fishing and port permits are also being reviewed.

Lawmakers also on Friday formally ratified the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) and passed the first reading of the maritime labour bill.

The pact, adopted by the International Labour Organization, consolidates 60 existing labour conventions into one. The MLC is aimed at protecting the right of all seafarers to decent employment and creating conditions of fair competition for ship owners and prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labour and discrimination in terms of employment and occupation.

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