The European Union has confirmed Thailand has more time to halt illegal fishing, but was sharply critical of the country's lack of progress and made no mention of a supposed six-month grace period to improve.
Brussels also added human trafficking and slave labour of fishermen to its concerns.
The EU statements seen Wednesday were at odds in tone and several specifics with a statement on Monday by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon that the Europeans had extended their original six-month "yellow card" warning by yet another six months.
In back-to-back statements published on the official European Union website, Europa.eu, the EU made no mention of a specific grace period. It said time was growing short for Thailand to show progress in fighting illegal fishing.
A trawler heads out to sea to begin another fishing trip. The European Union warns again that it is growing short of patience over illegal fishing (IUU). (Bangkok Post file photo)
"[T]here remain serious concerns about the steps taken by Thailand to fight IUU fishing activities," said the statement, dated April 21. "This means that further action by the Commission cannot be ruled out."
It said progress in all parts of the anti-IUU fight had been unacceptably slow.
"The [European] Commission is currently evaluating progress. The dialogue is proving difficult and there remain serious concerns about the steps taken by Thailand to fight IUU fishing activities."
It said a meeting was planned with Thai authorities this month, which "will be a new opportunity for them to show their good will and commitment". No date was given for this meeting.
The European statement made no mention of a six-month extension of the yellow card, which was first issued in April of 2015. At that time, 13 months ago, the Commission said Thailand had six months to clean up illegal fishing, and, "Should the situation not improve, the EU could resort to banning fisheries imports from Thailand".
Since then, no time limit has been mentioned, although clearly the EU has continued to expand the "six months".
Thai media were told Monday by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit that the EU had decided to give Thailand another six months to tackle illegal fishing before the next appraisal.
This clashed with the actual EU statement, which mentioned no time limit and said this month's meeting would set the course for the EU's decision.
Gen Prawit said it was good news that the EU has yet to issue Thailand with a red card and give the country more time to continue efforts to deal with the issue.
The EU statement said it had added "human trafficking and slave labour" to the list of issues Thailand must solve. It has assigned officers to specifically address this issue, even as monitoring of the IUU problems continue.
"The main shortcomings that led to Thailand's [yellow card] were: inadequate fisheries legal framework, with sanctions that failed to deter; poor monitoring, control and traceability systems; and problematic fisheries management," the EU said.
The EU statements gave no credit to Thailand for work on illegal fishing so far. Gen Prawit's version was that the EU had praised Thailand for its work in dealing with the problem, and though several issues have yet to be addressed, the bloc considers the country has made a determined effort to deal with the matter.