Govt to set monthly fishing boat halts

Govt to set monthly fishing boat halts

Freeze periods aimed at curbing overfishing

The 7,000 legally licensed trawlers operating from Thailand will be ordered ashore for five days a month to combat overfishing in the region. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The 7,000 legally licensed trawlers operating from Thailand will be ordered ashore for five days a month to combat overfishing in the region. (Bangkok Post file photo)

About 7,000 legal trawlers will be ordered to suspend their fishing activities at least five days a month as a part of efforts to tackle overfishing in Thai seas, which will help tackle concerns raised by the European Union.

Woraporn Prompoj, the Fisheries Department's deputy director-general, said the measure comes under the department's Marine Fisheries Management Policy (FMP) and aims to find a balance between conserving fisheries stocks and consuming them.

She said the department would announce the dates of the fishing suspension period, to take effect next month.

Initially, it planned to instruct fishing boat operators to halt work five to nine days a month depending on the type of fishing gear they use. "We will do it every month, starting in September," she said.

Other measures under the policy include banning destructive fishing gear, regulating the fishing licence issuing system to take into account stocks of marine resources, controlling trawler numbers, and introducing measures to rehabilitate marine habitats.

"If everything goes well, we could increase the fertility of marine resources by 10% within four years," said Ms Woraporn.

The navy's commander, Adm Kraison Chansuwanit, who heads the Command Centre for Combating Illegal Fishing, said there are about 10,000 illegal trawlers, which either lack fishing licences or use illegal fishing gear. The navy will seize them if they are operational.

He said making heavy reductions in the number of legal trawlers, numbering about 7,000, would be hard to achieve, so other measures are needed, including fishing suspension periods.

"The measure is good for trawlers in the long run as they will spend less time fishing, but still get larger amounts of fish. Local fisheries will benefit from the ecological recovery of marine systems. All sides seem to benefit," he said.

In further efforts to tackle illegal fishing, the Fisheries Department yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with six agencies concerning the exchange of data on trawlers and fishing workers.

The six organisations are the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Police, the Marine Department, the Provincial Administration Department, the Employment Department, and the Labour Protection and Welfare Department. 

The information from the seven agencies will be linked to the central data centre called Fishing Info to provide the agencies with quicker access to Port in-Port out fishing boat registration information, seen as one way to control fishing vessels under the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing prevention plans.

Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya, Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, said the MoU is another big step for controlling illegal fishing in Thai waters and other countries' maritime areas as information on the names and numbers of crew will be shown online. It can prevent problems with illegal migrant workers in the fishing industry which might be used as a reason to ban seafood exports to the EU market and other international markets.

There are 92,000 registered foreign workers in the fishing industry, according to the Labour Ministry.

Mr Pitipong said plans put in place to deal with IUU are 90% complete, including a fishing law enactment and development of a national plan of action on IUU fishing.

He added the ministry would consider a package to help fishing operators who might be affected by the plan to eliminate illegal fishing activities. It would include financial support for changing fishing gear to meet legal requirements and a plan to buy illegal trawlers from operators who want to change careers.

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