On 28 December 2017, the Court of First Instance ruled that three fishing vessels titled “Yu Long 125”, “Yu Long 6” and “Hung Chi Fu 68” had violated the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 on three charges; (1) failing to comply with the Department of Fisheries’ Notification that all vessels without an overseas fishing license must return to port within the set deadline; (2) undertaking fishing in waters of other states and the high seas without permission; and (3) employing crews without seaman books. The fishing vessel company and its executives were ordered to pay a fine in total of 130,463,000 Thai Baht (approximately over 3.5 million Euros) as well as being sentenced to the maximum of 1 year and 15 months. Moreover, an administrative sanction was also applied, including (1) the confiscation of the fishing gear and aquatic animals aboard the vessels, (2) the detention of the vessels until the case completion, (3) the publication of the names of the vessels used in IUU fishing in accordance with Article 116 of the Royal Ordinance, and (4) the revocation of the vessels’ registration. The Department of Fisheries also proceeded to put the aquatic animals seized from the vessels up for auction.
Early in 2016 an inter-agency task force led by the Royal Thai Navy intercepted the above three vessels along with the other three vessels, namely Mook Andaman 018, Mook Andaman 028 and Ceribu and has detained them at the Phuket port. These six vessels are tuna trawlers that engaged in illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean. The remaining three vessels are still waiting for the decision of the trial court.
During the past two years, Thailand has captured and prosecuted 79 cases against overseas vessels, 51 of which have reached the final judgment, accounting for 64 percent of all the cases. Moreover, the Thai authorities have prosecuted another 1,065 cases of Thai and foreign vessels in Thai waters, including 184 foreign vessels illegally fishing in Thai waters. 817 out of the 1,065 cases, or 77 percent, have been concluded.
In addition, Thailand has implemented administrative sanctions alongside criminal proceedings. To date, the Administrative Sanction Committee has prosecuted 239 cases, including 66 cases of overseas fishing vessels, 103 cases of 30 GT-or-above Thai fishing vessels, and 67 cases of less-than-30 GT Thai fishing vessels. The penalties range from seizing the vessel, confiscating its fishing gear and aquatic animals, revoking its fishing license, and imposing fines which, so far, have totaled more than 43 million Baht (approximately over 1.1 million Euros).
Thailand has recently introduced a new measure to speed up the trial process by setting up two new special panels of judges within the Criminal Court to solely handle illegal fishing cases, as announced in the Criminal Court’s order on 29 January 2018. These cases will be deemed extraordinary and the court will aim to conclude all cases within six months after the charge accepted. Regarding the request for temporary release of the accused or defendants, due consideration will also be given to the circumstances relating to the alleged offence; whether it involves criminal networks or organizations or influential figures; and the impact of the alleged offence on the aquatic animal resources and environment. All these efforts reflect the Royal Thai Government’s endeavor to strengthen law enforcement to effectively prevent, deter and eliminate the illegal fishing, as intended in the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries.