SOME 900 trawler owners without logbooks needed under new regulations suspended operations in Songkhla yesterday, but there was no blanket suspension as predicted earlier.
The operators announced yesterday as their “D-Day” for suspending their businesses, but it turned out they are still operating trawlers that have the necessary documents.
Songkhla Fishery Association president Praporn Akuru said about 90 per cent of trawlers in the province, about 900, could not go to sea because of the government was enforcing the Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing regulations – the IUU rules.
Fishery Department director-general Jumpol Sanguansin inspected piers in Songkhla and said 226 trawlers in the province were equipped with logbooks – the rest had fake documents.
Meanwhile, Surat Thani Fishery Association president Anant Chusak claimed the province would lose about Bt100 million a day because up to 2,000 trawlers could not operate.
He said there were only 200 legal trawlers, and the seafood supply in the province came from 1,000 trawlers that could go out in shallow water.
Daranee Chindapan, chief of the Surat Thani Provincial Fishery Pier Office, said seafood prices had soared but there was still enough supply.
Big trawlers docked in Samut Prakan
Samut Prakan Fishery Association president Snoh Mongkolsopon said half of the province’s 300 30-tonne trawlers were docked at piers and the other half were anchored at the river mouth.
He said that some foreign workers had licences and some didn’t. Those who did |not have licences lost their jobs and were forced to steal to survive.
Trang Fishery Association president Sompol Jirojmontri said 60 trawlers with no logbooks were docked at piers in the province and hundreds of workers had become unemployed.
He said operators would have to spend hundreds of thousands of baht upgrading equipment to the necessary standards, and fishermen did not have the skills to use the equipment.
Samut Songkhram Fishery Association Mongkol Sukcharoenkana said 90 per cent of trawlers in the province did not have the necessary documents to operate.
Meanwhile, up to 400 trawlers in Rayong were docked at piers after the government started enforcement of the IUU rules.
Ban Phe Fishery Association head Somsak Poonsampao urged the government to relax regulations on foreign workers, saying skilled Thai workers were difficult to find and the industry depended on “aliens”.
Nakhon Si Thammarat Fishery Association president Sukij Rattanawinijkul said 80 per cent of trawlers in the province were illegal |but their suspension of operations had not affected local seafood prices yet.
‘Prices OK for at least a week’
Yanothai Likitwattanaset, manager of a seafood shop in Nakhon Ratchasima, said her shop would be able to keep the prices of frozen seafood at the same level for one week thanks to her stock.
She said some shops imported fresh seafood from Myanmar but it was less fresh than what was usually supplied and she did not want to do that. If she ran out of stock she would stop trading.
Boat owner Ua-angkoon Jongprasertsiri said he turned some of his trawlers into tour boats because he believed trawler operations were a dying business due to the strict rules.
He believed the tour operations had more potential than fishing especially after full integration of the Asean Economic Community at the end of the year.
But Ranong Fishery Association president Thawee Bunying was optimistic about the IUU regulations, saying the strict rules would help protect the fishing industry as illegal fishing methods were destructive.
He urged the government to negotiate with Nay Pyi Taw to give concessions to Thai trawlers to operate in their waters. Many trawler operators were forced to withdraw from Indonesia because the Indonesians had cancelled concessions and replaced them with a joint-venture model with local trawler operators. But he said that business model was not worth getting into because operators could not bring the fish back to Thailand and were forced to sell them in Indonesia at ordinary prices.