The Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) came into force on 14 November 2015, replacing the recently amended Fisheries Act B.E. 2558 (2015).
The new legislation amounts to a fundamental and comprehensive reform of the legal framework governing Thai fisheries.
Highlights of the new fisheries law include:
Key principles and objectives
- To establish good governance in the management of the fisheries sector and the conservation of aquatic resources, based on the best available scientific evidence, precautionary principle, internationally accepted standards, and Thailand’s international obligations.
- To combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as prevent overfishing and overcapacity of the fishing fleet, in order to achieve sustainability of fisheries resources.
- To ensure effective monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities.
- To bolster the traceability system of fisheries products along the whole value chain, from fishing vessels to end consumers.
- To eliminate all forms of forced labor and improve welfare and working conditions of workers in the fisheries sector, both in fishing vessels and in seafood processing factories.
- To introduce proportional and deterrent administrative and criminal sanctions.
More effective fisheries management and stakeholders’ involvement
- A National Fisheries Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising relevant public officials, private sector representatives and fisheries experts, is established to formulate policies and control measures concerning fisheries, both inside and outside Thai waters, and fisheries related industries. Such policies are to be approved by the Council of Ministers.
- A Provincial Fisheries Committee, comprising provincial government officials and experts from local fishing community organizations, is established in each designated province. Its main task is to propose to the National Fisheries Committee policy recommendations concerning fisheries development and resolution of fisheries problems in the province.
Improved oversight of fishing operations and transshipments at sea
- All commercial fishing vessels, which are of 10 gross tonnage or above or fitted with an engine of a certain horse power prescribed by the Minister, are required to have valid fishing licenses. The issuance of fishing licenses is subject to fishing capacity and maximum sustainable yield as stipulated in the Marine Fisheries Management Plan.
- All commercial fishing vessels must record their fishing operations in the fishing logbook and report every port-in and port-out operation to the Port In-Port Out Control Center. Commercial fishing vessels of above 30 gross tonnage must install a vessel monitoring system (VMS) on board. They are not allowed to fish in coastal seas.
- Every Thai fishing vessel operating outside Thai waters must obtain a specific license for this purpose. An observer must be stationed on board the vessel in accordance with international rules and regulations, as well as the rules prescribed by the coastal state or the state having jurisdiction over the intended fishing area, or as prescribed by the Director-General of the Department of Fisheries.
- Oversight on transshipments at sea is strengthened. Transshipments of aquatic animals at sea may only be made onto a fishing vessel specifically registered for transshipment or storage purpose. VMS is mandatory on all transshipment and storage vessels. Pre-authorization for transshipments at sea is required. The master of the fishing vessel must also submit a marine catch transshipment document (MCTD) after completion of transshipments. The Director-General may prohibit transshipments at sea for certain or all vessels in a specified area and time period, for the purposes of preventing and combating IUU fishing.
Enhanced traceability system
- The mandatory submission of fishing logbook and marine catch transshipment document by fishing operators is designed to enhance traceability of the catch.
- Fishing ports and fish markets are required to record data on every fishing vessel berthed at port, as well as prepare a marine catch purchasing document (MCPD) for a buyer and submit a copy to the Department of Fisheries. The MCPD is also required for every subsequent transaction involving the catch. In addition, the producer or processor of aquatic animals must prepare evidence for traceability purposes.
- Importers and exporters of aquatic animals and aquatic animal products must present a catch certificate or similar document to prove that the catch or the products have been obtained from lawful fishing operations.
Preventing IUU vessels and products from entering port
- The Director-General may publicly declare a list of non-Thai “IUU” fishing vessels, based on the lists published by foreign states and international organizations. These IUU fishing vessels are prohibited from entering Thailand. Likewise, no stateless vessel is allowed to enter Thailand.
- Every non-Thai fishing vessel wishing to bring in aquatic animals into Thailand must notify the competent official at least 48 hours prior to its arrival at the port of entry. Permission to berth may be denied if the vessel in question is on the IUU list or if there is a cause for suspicion that the vessel has been involved in IUU fishing.
- After berthing at port, the aquatic animals in the vessel may not be unloaded and imported into Thailand, unless permission has been granted by the competent official. The master or owner of that vessel is required to provide a valid license and other required documents to prove that it has not engaged in IUU fishing activity.
- The law introduces proportional and deterrent administrative and criminal sanctions. The issuing authorities may suspend a vessel’s fishing license or permit for a period of up to 90 days, if the licensee or permit holder fails to comply with the Royal Ordinance and subordinate laws. If the licensee or permit holder re-commits a violation of the law, his or her license or permit may be revoked. Transshipment registration may also be cancelled in case of non-compliance with the requirements specified by the Royal Ordinance and subordinate laws.
- A number of “serious infringements” are defined in the Royal Ordinance, such as the use of a stateless vessel and a prohibited fishing gear, fishing without a fishing license, failure to prepare a fishing logbook, use of false documents and violation of transshipment at sea rules.
- Deterrent administrative sanctions are applicable to these serious infringements. The Director-General may, inter alia, order a seizure of the catch or fishing gear, prohibition of fishing activity until full compliance is achieved, suspension of fishing license, revocation of fishing license, inclusion of the vessel into the IUU list, and detention of the vessel.
- Criminal sanctions are designed to be deterrent and proportional for different sizes of fishing vessels, with a maximum fine of 30 million baht (approximately 780,000 euros) or five times the value of the catch obtained from the fishing operation, whichever case is higher. If a serious infringement is re-committed within a period of five years, the penalty prescribed shall be doubled.
Improving welfare and working conditions of seamen, and eliminating unlawful labor practices in the fisheries sector
- A seaman must hold a seaman document issued under the law on naviagation in Thai waters. A seaman who is not a Thai national must obtain permit to remain in Thailand under the law on immigration and a work license under the law on working of aliens.
- When porting-out, the owner or the master of a fishing vessel must submit to the PIPO Control Center a list of outgoing seamen on board and evidence related to the provision of appropriate systems for ensuring occupational safety, hygiene and wellbeing of seamen. Non-compliance will result in the detention of the fishing vessel at port.
- The owner of any fishing vessel making use of a seaman without a valid work license or permit is subject to a fine of up to 800,000 baht (approximately 21,000 euros) per seaman. In addition, the Director-General shall order the revocation of the owner’s fishing license, and the Director-General of the Marine Department shall also revoke the seaman document of the master of the vessel pursuant to the law on navigation in Thai waters.
- A factory operator who engages in a business relating to aquatic animals is prohibited from employing illegal workers, including aliens who do not hold a legal work permit. Violation may result in a fine of up to 800,000 baht per each unlawfully employed person. Moreover, if the number of workers unlawfully employed at the factory is not more than five, then the Director-General shall order the suspension of the factory operation for a period of ten to thirty days. If more than five workers are employed illegally at the factory, then the Director-General shall notify the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry to order the closure of the factory pursuant to the law on factories. Such an order shall also have the effect of license revocation under the law on factories.
- The factory operator who violates the labor protection law or employs illegal alien workers is also liable to criminal penalties, including a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine of 200,000-2,000,000 baht (approximately 5,200 -52,000 euros), or both, as well as a daily fine of 100,000-500,000 baht (approximately 2,600-13,000 euros) for the entire duration of the violation.
European Union Division
Department of European Affairs
18 November 2015