Seafood shortage looms in Thailand

Seafood shortage looms in Thailand
Fishing nets for trawlers are repaired in Rayong province yesterday. More than 200 fishing boats in the seaside province have been docked due to failure to meet the new regulations.
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

MANY SEAFOOD markets, including the country's largest, will be forced to halt business as they are running out of supplies with the tougher fishing regulations coming into effect from Wednesday.

The prices of seafood in many areas of the country continued to increase yesterday after fishing boats that failed to adhere to the new rules were forced to be docked.

The Talay Thai seafood market in Samut Sakhon, the country's largest, will have to be closed for business from tomorrow because no seafood supplies will arrive due to the halt in fishing activity, Thailand Fishery Association vice president Monkol Sukcharenkana said yesterday.

Many other seafood markets and fishing piers will also be closed, he said.

"I cannot say when the seafood markets will resume their business. It depends solely on the government decision. If the government continues its strict enforcement of fishery regulations, without allowing trawler owners more time to prepare, there will be no seafood in the market," Monkol said.

He clarified that the fisheries industry was not halting its activities to show its opposition to the governmental regulations, but the new regulations meant the fishing vessels could not go fishing.

Vendors at Talaad Thai, the country's largest wholesale fresh market in Pathum Thani, reported increases of seafood prices between Bt20 and Bt50 a kilogram for each of the products, as supplies were fast dwindling.

Seafood vendor Osara Srisa-nga said sea fish supplies had already run out, as fishing piers were being closed. She expected all the fishing piers in Mahachai area, which supplies seafood to most parts of the country, to be closed today, squeezing supplies to consumers and factories.

Seafood products in other provinces, such as Krabi and Phitsanulok, were sold at higher prices yesterday although many shops still had much supply in their stocks. Vendors said they expected the prices to go even higher, as supply was running out. However, seafood prices in Mahachai remained unchanged yesterday due to the large amounts of stock in the vendors' cold storage.

In the southern province of Surat Thani, almost 3,000 fishing boats were forced back to port due to a shortage of qualified skippers and mechanics under the tougher regulations, according to Darunee Jindapan, head of the province's Fishery Port Office.

She expected a shortage of seafood in the province in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the authorities yesterday insisted that the tougher fishing rules would remain in effect, as the goal was to solve the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and avoid a European Union ban.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Peetipong Phuengbun na Ayutthaya urged trawler operators to register their boats and comply with the regulations.

"The government does not mean to hurt anyone. But we have to adjust the country's fishing system. We want to know about the number of legal and illegal fishing boats," Peetipong said.

He said the EU would send its officials to Thailand in August to collect information about the country's efforts to solve the IUU problem.

The EU was expected to evaluate Thailand's performance in October.

The agriculture minister did not expect much impact on local seafood consumption. He said most of the supply came from farms, and not the sea.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday that the Navy has started providing one-stop service in the sea to register fishing boats under the new regulations.

"We have to follow the rules or things could get worse," he said, adding the problem of illegal fishing boats has continued for more than two decades.

In a related development, the Bank of Thailand has lowered its forecast of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the year from 3.8 to 3.0 per cent last month.

The BOT's latest GDP projection in June did not take into account the possible fallout of a prolonged drought or an EU ban on Thai exports due to IUU fishing, said Don Nakornthab, the bank's director of Macroeconomic Policy Office.

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