Fishing boats for sale as strict Thai rules affect fishermen

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Fishing groups across the country have demanded the sale of nearly 800 of their fishing vessels to the government, amid tougher rules aimed at curbing illegal, unreported fishing and unregulated (IUU).

National Fisheries Association of Thailand chairman Mongkol Sukcharoenkana said Thursday (April 7) that a total of 792 fishing boats have been offered for sale to the government as their owners can no longer bear the higher costs.

He blamed the situation on “unreasonably harsh penalties” set by the Emergency Fisheries Decree, which became stricter after it was last amended in 2017.

Due to the rules, fishing boats can only be used 240 days a year, while owners are responsible for covering costs for the whole year, Mongkol said.

Additionally, the fishing industry is facing a labor shortage, he added, blaming the problem on government policy that is “inconsistent with reality”.

“Thai’s fishing industry is dying. Commercial fishing is down 60% and catches are less than 40% of the previous amount,” Mongkol said.

“Thailand will soon have to import seafood for domestic consumption,” he added.

Fishing boats purchased by the government will be removed from the system in order to achieve the country’s Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) set by the National Fisheries Policy Council. MSY is the largest average catch that can be taken from a stock under existing environmental conditions.

Of the 792 fishing boats to be sold to the government, 766 are licensed for commercial fishing while the other 26 are unlicensed.

The boats come from Bangkok and the seaside provinces of the central region, the east coast and the south.

Pattani accounts for most of them, with 164 fishing boats offered for sale, followed by Samut Prakan (116), Samut Songkhram (109), Nakhon Si Thammarat (94) and Chumphon (65).

IUU fishing is a global problem, as industry observers believe it occurs in most fisheries, accounting for up to 30% of total catches in some major fisheries.

Under the ‘card system’ adopted by the European Union to combat the scourge of illegal fishing, Thailand received a ‘yellow card’ as a warning of potential EU sanctions for ignoring the IUU fishing. EU action in 2015 prompted the Thai government to get tougher with the fishing industry.