On 21 March 2018, Mr. Steve Trent, Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) paid a courtesy call on His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan at the Ministry of Defense, and discussed Thailand’s progress in combatting illegal fishing.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit informed Mr. Trent of Thailand’s progress in tackling the IUU fishing in various dimensions, including fishing fleet management, enhancement of monitoring, control and surveillance effectiveness, law enforcement, and amendment of laws to support the preparation for Thailand’s ratification of relevant ILO conventions. He confirmed that, despite changes of government in the future, the fisheries reform in Thailand would continue under the existing legal frameworks and mechanisms already set up by the present Government. Even though the Government had to endure severe pressure from fishermen and fisheries businesses nationwide, it would remain tirelessly committed to tackling the cause of the problems. This effort had led to the stage of Thailand’s progress today. He reiterated that Thailand was ready to enhance its leading role in this matter at the regional level by sharing its experiences with other countries facing the same challenges.
Mr. Trent expressed his admiration for the Royal Thai Government’s endeavours and its progress as portrayed in a number of concrete results. He was confident that Thailand could be a good example of the country successfully solving IUU fishing for the regional and global levels. EJF would stand ready to support Thailand in this matter to achieve its ambition to become an IUU-free country which would also pave the way towards the IUU-free ASEAN in the future.
Mr. Trent was of the view that Thailand’s efforts in the past three years have overhauled the entire fisheries sector which not only benefited Thailand directly, but also other countries in the region. Thailand’s leading role in this issue was therefore crucial. He emphasised the need of transparency to reduce the relevant costs incurred, and the engagement of all stakeholders including the fisheries industry to take part in this at the regional level.
EJF is a private organisation which plays an important role in protecting the marine environment including combatting IUU fishing. Over the past three years, Thailand has cooperated with EJF through recommendations and technical assistance to increase effectiveness of the mechanisms set up for handling IUU fishing and labour issues in the fisheries sector. Recently, the Government has invited an EJF representative to be part of the Working Group on Labour Relations Promotion in Sea Fishing Operation, and also the other working group on drafting laws in support of the ratification of relevant ILO Conventions.