On 24 May 2018, Mr. Gabriel Mato and Ms. Clara Eugenia Aguilera Garcia, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) from Spain, paid a courtesy call on General Chatchai Sarikulya, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, at the Government House on the occasion of their visit to Thailand to attend the 22nd Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) hosted by the Department of Fisheries in Bangkok from 21-25 May 2018. At the meeting, both sides discussed the latest development of the Thai fishery reform.
The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated Thailand’s commitment to tackle the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing over the past three years and highlighted substantive progress on many fronts such as the enactment of the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries and its related regulations, the control of the whole fishing fleet size, the development of a traceability system, the strengthening of the monitoring, control and surveillance systems, and the implementation of swift and strict law enforcement, both at the criminal court and the administrative sanction committee levels. This resulted in 4,427 legal cases being prosecuted for breaching the fishing regulations and illegal treatments of labour in the fisheries sector. Over 88% of the cases had reached the verdict, including cases of several overseas fishing vessels which were fined to the total of over 400 million Baht (nearly 11 million Euros).
The Deputy Prime Minister emphatically stated that Thailand will be relentless in its effort to combat IUU fishing to reach the target of being an IUU-free country as well as to create a sustainable fisheries sector in parallel with its effort to solve the labour issues within the fisheries sector. Thailand is ready to take a leading role in the combat against IUU fishing in the region and has already pushed forward the idea of “ASEAN Common Fisheries Policy.” Thailand will also call for strengthening of ASEAN cooperation to prevent and combat the IUU fishing when it assumes ASEAN chairmanship in 2019 and is willing to work with the EU in order to achieve sustainable fishing in Thailand and the region as a whole.
Mr. Mato and Ms. Garcia commended Thailand’s progress in this matter. Both MEPs had visited the Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC) on 23 May 2018 and were briefed on the positive development of the monitoring, control and surveillance system being installed, especially regarding the connection between the vessel monitoring system (VMS) and the electronic reporting and monitoring system on Thai Fleets operating overseas; the traceability system put in place for aquatic animals, both from Thai waters and imported from overseas; and the improved effectiveness of PIPO centres. All of these efforts demonstrate that Thailand is heading in the right direction towards sustainable fishing and can be an important example to other countries in the region facing similar problems.
In addition, both MEPs were pleased to learn about measures being put in place to protect labour in the fisheries sector as well as Thailand’s intention to ratify the relevant ILO’s Conventions within this year. Both pledged support from the EU to provide continued assistance to Thailand in order to achieve the goal of sustainable fishing.