Angry Thai fishermen call for delay to rules against illegal fishing

Angry Thai fishermen call for delay to rules against illegal fishing
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Several hundred fishermen along Thailand's coastal provinces have urged the government to delay new rules and regulations to crack down on so-called illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing practices as required by the European Union, which last week told Thai authorities the country has not done enough to solve the IUU issue.

In Samut Sakhon, 300 fishermen gathered yesterday to demand the delay of the measures, saying they have caused them financial hardship as the authorities no longer allowed vessels with certain types of fishing nets to operate.

Pradit Lekdee, president of Samut Sakhon "Oun Roon" Fishermen's Club, said representatives from neighbouring coastal provinces such as Samut Songkham, Samut Prakan, and Phetchaburi had joined the Samut Sakhon fishing industry in opposing the government's move to comply with the EU demand.

On Friday, Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters the EU had sent a letter to the government indicating the country needed to take more action to solve the IUU problem.

Thailand has been given another two months to fulfil its pledge to eradicate the IUU fishing practices after the EU warned four months ago that it would consider slapping an export ban on Thai seafood if the problem was not tackled satisfactorily.

Coastal fishermen said their fishing method did not hurt fish stocks and the environment as some people claimed.

Pradit said the group wanted fair treatment as club members had been badly hurt by the government's measures.

'Government has banned our nets'

"Please stop hurting us by distorting facts. The government has recently banned the use of oun roon nets as part of its campaign to satisfy the EU demand. We are now broke, whereas we have fixed expenditure," he said.

"So the government has to consider remedies and compensation for us. It's not our fault. As of now, the government should postpone enforcement of the new rules and regulations."

Rien Hong-koo, 73, a former vice president of the Samut Sakhon Fishermen's Association, said he had been a fisherman since childhood and the oun roon nets were environmentally friendly because they were mainly used by small vessels not capable of significantly depleting fish stocks.

Meanwhile, Pol General Aek Angsananont, deputy national police chief, said police in 22 coastal provinces were helping local authorities enforce the port-in, port-out requirement, one of the measures to comply with the EU demand.

Commander Suebsan Rien-roo, head of the PIPO centre in Rayong, said the centre was responsible for regulating 30-gross-tonne or larger fishing vessels, which were required to be registered and licensed to fish legally.

Their fishing equipment and personnel also need to be registered while every port departure and their return has to be reported 24 hours in advance in official forms submitted to the PIPO centre.

Since opening on May 6, 238 fishing vessels had filed PIPO forms with the centre, Suebsan said, adding that the figure for July 1 to yesterday was 174 vessels.

He said Rayong had 285 30-gross-tonne and larger vessels registered with authorities.

Aek said the Navy commander-in-chief was directly responsible for enforcing the PIPO requirement while police would support the operation by providing personnel at 28 PIPO centres in 22 provinces with each centre staffed by 20 policemen who would also enforce laws on the use of illegal larbour in the fishing industry.

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