According to Thailand Fishery Association vice president Monkol Sukcharenkana, up to 90 per cent of the fishing boats cannot fish legally because they do not have all the required documents without which they will face a Bt100,000 (S$4,000) fine or imprisonment for up to one year. Fishery business owners across the country also warned that Thai consumers would have to cope with more expensive seafood products.
Songkhla Fishery Association president Praporn Eak-uru said that up to 90 per cent of the province's trawlers could not go fishing because the equipment specified in the licence was different from the equipment they actually use. "By July 4, up to 1,000 trawlers in the province will halt their operations and all the related industries will come to a standstill as well," Praporn said.
Monkol also said trawler owners could endure for only a week or two without fishing. After that they will have to close their businesses, as they won't have money to pay employees and meet other expenses.
He said the halt in fishing activity would result in losses of more than Bt100,000 per day for all the operators and if the fishing industry collapses, the related businesses - from the big seafood processing industry to small local fish sellers - would be severely affected too.
"We normally sell 70 per cent of our product in the domestic market, while 25 per cent goes to other Asian countries and only 5 per cent is exported to the European Union. Therefore, Thai consumers will be affected directly if the fishing industry collapses," he warned.
"I asked for two more months for the fishing-vessel owners to prepare the documents and get things in the right position. The loss of the European market, if we get a red card on IUU, is acceptable compared with the damage of 70 per cent in the domestic market," he added.
Kiititat Siriluckananan, owner if the Pon-anan fishing pier in Samut Sakhon, said that because of the shortage of fish, seafood prices would definitely rise. He suggested that the authorities ease up by implementing the regulations step by step.
The situation at the fishing piers in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Pattani yesterday was also reportedly stagnant as fewer boats unloaded their catches.
Admiral Kraisorn Chansuwanitch, the Navy commander and the director of the Command Centre for Combating Illegal Fishing (CCCIF), said the centre had tried its best to compromise with the fishing-vessel owners but the deadline of the clement period had ended, so it had to enforce the regulations equally for all fishing vessels.
"If the fishing vessels stop their operations, I think it is fine, if they are not ready. If we compromise with them, more than 20,000 legal fishing vessels will be affected," Kraisorn said. He said this was the responsibility of the trawler owners and the CCCIF had no duty to adjust the regulations to suit them.
"Everyone has to follow the law and we are working like the police to enforce the law," he added. In response to the fishery problem, the Commerce Ministry will this week call for a meeting with seafood manufacturers and exporters to estimate the impact from the fishing shutdown.
Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya said the meeting would brainstorm ideas to tackle the problem and estimate losses.
The ministry foresees the price of seafood in the domestic market being driven up. It will closely monitor price movements and prevent unfair increases, it says.
According to the ministry, export of seafood - including frozen and processed products - dropped 13.3 per cent year on year in the first five months of 2015 to US$2.18 billion (S$2.94 billion). Seafood products accounted for 7.8 per cent of the country's total export value.