Governmentt to roll out decree in IUU fight

Governmentt to roll out decree in IUU fight
Raft of measures aims to meet EU demands

The government will roll out an executive decree and other measures next week to deal with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Speaking after chairing a meeting Thursday on the problem, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said a committee set up to tackle IUU fishing decided on the measures including an executive decree regulating fishing, a fishery management plan and a national plan of action.

The committee will seek approval for its plan from the cabinet and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha next week as the country seeks to meet a European Union (EU) deadline in December to clamp down on illegal fishing or risk trade sanctions.

The national plan of action includes installing a vessel monitoring system to track trawlers of over 60 gross tonnage, developing a system of traceability to verify where seafood products come from, and legalising the status of migrant workers on fishing trawlers.

The measures also include inspections of seafood processing plants where illegal, trafficked migrant workers may be employed, severe punishments for those who break the law, and seeking cooperation with other countries to solve IUU fishing, Gen Prawit said.

The EU is expected to announce in December whether Thailand has cooperated enough to be allowed more time to fix its problems, or if it will give the country a red card and blacklist its seafood exports.

The EU could not be reached for comment Thursday about the deadline.

Gen Prawit said the government was doing its best to solve the IUU problem and was confident the EU, which gave it a yellow card The EU could not be reached for comment Thursday about the deadline.

Gen Prawit said the government was doing its best to solve the IUU problem and was confident the EU, which gave it a yellow card in April for failing to tackle the issue, will recognise its efforts.

"We don't know if it will be a yellow card or a red one. But we are trying to do our best," he said.

The deputy prime minister also said the government will devise measures to help fishing workers, particularly those who go out on heavy trawlers in international waters.

He said these trawlers may fly Thai flags, but some may not be Thai-registered, and they can go out to sea for up to a year, and in some cases, never return.

The government and the EU have shared concerns about the welfare of fishing crews, with the EU wanting Thailand to determine their whereabouts when they are at sea, Gen Prawit said.

Gen Prawit said the EU sent representatives earlier this month to scrutinise the government's measures to solve the IUU problem.

The EU has also paid special attention to the problem of trafficked workers in the fishing industry and the welfare of the workers -- the two issues that Thailand has not improved upon yet, Gen Prawit said.

He said most of the workers in the fishing industry are migrant labourers who work on vessels whose ownership cannot be verified.

The government will intensify efforts to implement the measures to ensure tangible results in time for the EU's assessment, Gen Prawit said, adding that the measures would demonstrate the government's serious intent to solve the problem.

Gen Prawit said private operators in the fishing industry could also help improve the situation by not breaking fishing laws.

Labour Minister Sirichai Distakul said Gen Prawit had stressed the need for authorities to strictly enforce the law to deal with human trafficking in the fishing industry.

Gen Sirichai said fishing operators must follow the law and regulations, adding that the Labour Ministry has attached importance to labour inspections.

Officials will be given a crash course on labour inspections to ensure there are enough trained inspectors, he added.

He said officials have also been instructed to avoid getting involved in human trafficking or they will face severe punishment.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the Thai government has been working hard over the past seven to eight months to solve illegal fishing after the EU's yellow card.

Mr Somkid said if the Thai government is able to solve the issue, he was confident the EU would not give the country a red card.

Wimol Jantrarotai, chief of the Department of Fisheries, said that the department had completed a fishing plan in line with the committee's IUU action plan, and both will be forwarded for the cabinet's consideration next week.

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