Yellow card for Thai fisheries

The Star Online
27 April 2015

THE European Union has given Thailand, the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, six months to crack down on illegal fishing or face a trade ban on its fish imports. South Korea and the Philippines though have escaped the commission’s net after bringing in legal reforms and improved control and inspection systems.

“The commission has put Thailand on formal notice, after identifying serious shortcoming in its fish monitoring, control and sanctioning systems,” says EU environment and fisheries commissioner, Karmenu Vella in Brussels. “There are no controls whatsoever and no efforts being made whatsoever and illegal fishing is almost totally allowed.”

Unless Thailand now cleans up its fishing industry, it risks an embargo on its fish exports in October. EU vessels could also be prevented from fishing in Thai waters.

Thailand’s agriculture ministry has announced a six-point plan for combatting illegal fishing. But meeting the EU benchmarks by October is considered unlikely, as Thailand’s legal and regulatory framework for fishing has not been changed since it was drawn up in 1947. A high percentage of the Thai fishing fleet is unregistered and outside government control. Even registered vessels often sail without strong catch documentation and operation certificates.

The EU’s “yellow card” to Thailand is the most high profile action taken against illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, under a 2010 regulation against such practises. Last year, €642mil (RM2.6bil) of Thailand’s fish exports – weighing 145,907 tonnes – was destined for European dishes, where it made up over 3% of the continent’s overall fish imports.

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