THAILAND will at some point receive a “green card” from the European Union for its efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, once the EU realises the real progress the government is making in this regard, according to Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
After meeting with Agriculture Minister Chatchai Sarikulya during the “Asia Regional Conference on Building Ocean Health: sharing experiences to move towards sustainable fisheries management”, held in Seoul on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Trent said the EJF had seen the progress made to date by Thailand in solving IUU problems in the fishing industry and believed the country’s work and good intentions would be recognised and Thailand removed from the “IUU Report” of the EU.
“Thailand will succeed in getting a green card after being given yellow-card status almost two years ago. But I don’t know when, and the EU would like to see long-lasting measures for sustainable fishing,” he said.
The EU will continue to visit the Kingdom to inspect the country’s efforts next year, while the EJF will continue to forge closer ties with Thailand, helping it to combat IUU fishing and create sustainable development for the fishery sector, he added.
After demonstrating real commitment in tackling IUU fishing by creating new laws and a new system to regulate all parties involved in the fishing industry, as well as stringent rules and regulations relating to the fisheries sector and human rights, the EU would still like more to be done, as well see the outcome of the government’s measures, which could take some time, Trent explained.
He said the priority concern in his view was that Thailand needed to commit to the ratification and adoption of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention concerning work in the fishing industry, develop a sustainable plan and measures to combat IUU fishing, and create sustainable fisheries.
Once these matters were attended to, it would not only show the country’s efficiency in solving problems and regulating all parts of the fishing industry, but also ensure sustainable export income and a good environment, the executive director said.
Adisorn Promthep, director-general of the Fisheries Department, said the government continued to take IUU and sustainable fishery issues very seriously, having made them a priority on the national agenda.
It has worked closely with the EU and other countries, as well as international organisations, to solve illegal-fishing problems.
“Having established clear work plans and continued enforcement, the outcome of our work should be clearly seen next year,” he said.
He explained that much critical work had been, and continued to be, undertaken this year. The first plan has been to set up a system for distance fishing-vessel management for outside Thailand’s territorial waters, and to monitor carriers and transhipment both at sea and in port.
The Port-in Port-out control system will also be upgraded and modernised, and the Vessel Monitoring System Centre will be upgraded to the Fishery Monitoring Centre in order to increase efficiency for the regulation of all shipping, the official said.
Meanwhile, the government has also increased efficiency in relation to labour management by setting up an interview system for migrant workers on fishing boats, via which they will get a sea-book for indentification purposes and for following up on their living conditions, Adisorn added.
So far, about 38,000 vessels have been registered with the Fishery Department, some 26,000 of which are local fishing boats, and 11,000 are commercial boats.
The government aims to remove about 1,000 registered vessels from service soon, as they do not have fishing licences, he said.
Singhadet Chu-umnart, director-general of the Employment Department, said Thailand would by the end of next year ratify the ILO’s Convention No 188 concerning work in the fishery sector and covering fair wages, working hours, quality of shelter for labourers, and sanitary standards.
The ILO and the Labour Ministry are currently working on a gap analysis, following which a report is expected to be submitted to the labour minister by the end of this year.
A tripartite meeting will then be convened, before drafting an enabling bill for submission to the Cabinet, he said, adding that the process of ratification of the convention would be carried out by the end of 2017.
While waiting for the ratification progress to be completed, the Thai authorities will continue to develop the country’s labour-management standard in compliance with the convention, Singhadet said.
The government has clear policies to enable all migrant workers to work legally through a nationality-verification process and the memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) process, as well as to strengthen law enforcement and enhancement of working conditions to meet international standards, he added.
According to Employment Department data, 343,511 migrant workers in Thailand are permitted to work in the overall fishery sector, as authorised through the One Stop Service Centre and the MoU process – 78,290 of them in the fishing |sector, and 265,221 in seafood processing.