PM cites ‘progress’ on illegal fishing despite EC warning

politics July 19, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday expressed his satisfaction over progress in solving illegal fishing, but the European Commission (EC) has suggested that Thai authorities could do more and hinted that the country will maintain its “yellow card” status for another year.

“We might not be able to finish the job 100 per cent since there are so many problems in the sector, but I think we have made a lot of progress in accordance with the requirement,” Prayut told reporters.

An EC delegation was in Thailand from July 1 to 16 to review measures taken by the government to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Agriculture Minister Chatchai Sarikalya said earlier that the EC had suggested Thailand could do more to regulate the fishery industry, such as register fishing trawlers, to meet equilibrium of supply. They raised concerns about the use of illegal workers, illegal and substandard fishing tools, as well as insufficient monitoring systems, he said.

“Many issues of concern are relatively new, so we have to study and hire consultant to help us,” Chatchai said. 

The EC put Thailand on formal notice of a yellow card in April 2015 for not taking sufficient measures to combat illegal fishing. The commission has sent delegations to Thailand to follow up the work since then, but the actions taken by Thai authorities so far are unlikely to meet conditions for a status upgrade.

“We have to get back to first stage for many works,” Prayut said, noting that only 18,000 of an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 boats have been registered.

 “We have problems in every aspect, therefore we face slow progress,” he said.

The EC might not look back to the cause of the problem, but the government has to tackle it at its root cause, he said. “As we issue new laws and enforce them, there is some resistance from those who have become familiar with illegal fishing, so we need to take time to make them comply with the law,” he said. 

One of the world’s biggest fish importers, the European Union has enforced the IUU Regulation since 2010. It allows access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the country concerned. 

When those countries are unable to certify their products, the Commission starts a process of co-operation and assistance with them to help improve their legal frameworks. The milestones of this process are warnings (yellow cards), followed by green cards if issues are solved and red cards if they aren’t. Red cards lead to a trade ban.