The authorities are convinced that the crisis in the country's fishery industry, stemming from tougher government regulations, will abate soon and that seafood supply and prices will return to normal.
Fisheries Department director-general Jumpol Sanguansin said yesterday that the measures taken against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing would not have much impact on the prices of seafood. "I believe that business operators will in the end comply with the law. And the situation will return to normal soon," he said.
He also called on the owners of fishing boats to register under the new regulations by the end of this month. His comments came after the average price of seafood had increased abruptly by 20 per cent since the IUU measures were strictly enforced. Sales have decreased by 10-15 per cent.
Seafood vendors have tried to adapt by relying more on aquaculture farms and imports to supply their businesses, according to a survey conducted on seafood traders and markets.
Many fishing boats have had to remain in dock because they fail to meet requirements under the new IUU rules.
With reduced supply, cold-storage enterprises expect their stocks for domestic consumption to last about three months, the survey found.
Most of the Kingdom's seafood imports are from Indonesia. Operators of fishing boats in the southern province of Krabi said they had turned to fishing nearer to shore in order to make ends meet.
The Internal Trade Department conducted its survey at Samut Sakhon's Talay Thai market, the country's largest seafood market.
It was found that about 100 cold-storage operators at the market had the capacity to store a total of 257,000 tonnes of seafood.
However, due to the impact of many fishing boats being docked, the stockpile has decreased to about 60-70 per cent of capacity.
Chanoknart Titapanich, a seafood trader at Talay Thai, said the supply of fishery produce had not yet decreased as many boats had only just returned from fishing trips.
However, if the tougher fishing rules are not eased shortly, more boats will be forced to dock and that could lead to a shortage of seafood in the near future, she said. Traders may then have to sell freshwater fish instead of seafood as a short-term solution, she added.
Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said that although some seafood prices had risen, prices still reflected the cost of production and the department would not therefore impose controls on selling prices.
He insisted that there was an adequate supply of seafood for supplying the domestic market for several months, while the agency would only closely monitor traders and cold-storage operators to prevent price speculation and unfair trading practices.
Boonyarit also suggested that people could switch to consuming other foods instead of seafood, such as freshwater fish or aquaculture products. To promote more consumption of aquaculture products, the department will link up with 135 aquaculture farmers in 39 provinces for supplying their products to consumers nationwide, he said.
According to the survey at Talay Thai market, the price of seafood has in some cases risen significantly from the pre-crisis level.
For instance, the price of mackerel has gone up by Bt80 a kilogram to Bt250, sea bass by Bt50 to Bt250, grouper by Bt100 to Bt400, and pomfret by Bt100 to Bt680.