More than 200 fishing trawlers from Trat province are now docking and unloading their catches in Cambodia’s adjoining Koh Kong province to evade the strict regulations being enforced against unregistered vessels and fishing equipment in Thailand.
Manas Chalalai, manager of Chalalai pier in Trat’s Khlong Yai district, said the National Council for Peace and Order's strict regulation of the fisheries industry has affected many unregistered fishing trawlers in the eastern coast province.
As a result, more than 200 trawlers have moved to a pier in Pak Khlong area of Cambodia’s Koh Kong border province.
They dock there and unload their catch there, said Mr Manas. He had heard a new fishing pier costing about 12 million baht would be built in Koh Kong to cater for the Thai vessels.
There were now only 400-500 fishing vessels, mostly small boats, left in Khlong Yai district, said Mr Manas.
This had affected the local economy in the district. There were only a small number of migrant workers on fishing vessels, and trade had plummeted, he said.
The government has rolled out a series of legal amendments and regulations to tackle the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.
The move came after the European Union (EU) in late April issued a final warning, a so-called "yellow card", giving Thailand six months to drastically overhaul and regulate the industry to combat rampant IUU fishing, or face an import ban on Thai fish products.
Chaiwat Ordchanont, chief of Khong Yai district, said fish unloaded in Koh Kong must pass proper customs procedures if imported into Trat. Local authorities would not ease the regulations.
Bancharong Wasasiri, head of Khlong Yai customs checkpoint’s crime suppression unit, said fish imports from Koh Kong required permission from the Trat provincial fisheries office. His office had no authority to allow imports of fish.
Those wanting to import fish must show official documents issued by the provincial fisheries office, he said.