On 16 May 2018, General Chatchai Sarikulya, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, visited the Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC), which is located within the Department of Fisheries, to follow up on its performance and explore ways to increase the effectiveness of the FMC.
The FMC was set up in 2017 and is fully operational on a 24-hour basis as the command center for all monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) activities. The FMC coordinates and works closely with Port-in Port-out (PIPO) Centres. It establishes connections with all fishing vessels via the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) which is used to monitor the vessels’ activities, including areas of fishing, use of legitimate fishing gears, catch transshipment at sea, and labour treatment on board. The VMS transmits data including location, route, and pattern of activities of the fishing vessels to the FMC which will then be transferred to 30 PIPO Centres for reference for Port-in Port-out inspections.
Thailand has upgraded VMS equipment and developed the software used by the FMC/VMS for better data processing, including (1) sorting fishing vessels by vessel license and type of vessel and displaying vessel locations in real time; (2) recording navigation routes and comparing the routes of up to 10 vessels at the same time; (3) automatically notifying when there are any regulation violations, or when risky activities are detected, including when two vessels are moving closer than a distance of 50 metres, or when the vessel enters the Exclusive Economic Zone of a third country, or when the vessel fails to return to port within 30 days as set in the regulation; (4) keeping track of notifications and violation records to be used as inputs for risk analysis; and (5) categorising fishing behaviours into different level of risk. Each risk group indicates different levels of intensity of MCS procedures to be conducted by FMC officials.
In addition, the Thai Government further developed the data storage system and linked the FMC/VMS database of the Fisheries Department with those of other concerned agencies including the Marine Department, the Command Centre for Combatting Illegal Fishing (CCCIF), the Ministry of Labour, and the Royal Thai Police, to make the most of the pooled information on fishing vessels’ activities for risk analysis. This will in turn support the vessel inspections and the law enforcement against illegal vessels more accurately and swiftly.
The Thai authorities also recognised the importance of capacity building for operating staff to better understand the relevant regulations, be more vigilant regarding risky activities, as well as be more competent in the use of technology. Thus, the Deputy Prime Minister ordered the CCCIF to deploy 5 personnel to monitor and train the FMC staff for the period of three months, and to designate the work flow among the concerned agencies in order to achieve the same standard so that information received from the FMC can be immediately deployed to enforce the law effectively. The work flow runs from monitoring and surveillance, investigation, arrest, to prosecution of the wrongdoers. The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to increasing the effectiveness of the FMC, making it the most modern model in the region, with a view to become a leader in sustainable fisheries and to achieve an IUU-free Thailand within the next few years.