ข่าว : Thailand's Latest Updates on IUU Fishing News

ข่าว : Thailand's Latest Updates on IUU Fishing

Press Release : Prime Minister led the Cabinet to Visit Samut Sakhon Province for a Follow-up Session to Address Illegal Fishing and Labour in the Fisheries Sector

          On 5 March 2018, H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, led the Cabinet on an official visit to Samut Sakhon Province to follow up on progress in tackling illegal fishing and labour issues in the fisheries sector, prior to the 10th session of the mobile cabinet meeting 

at Petchaburi Province.

          After the visit, the Prime Minister announced at a press briefing that the government places great importance on the fisheries sector since it is a crucial source of income for fishermen and a source of revenue for the country, valued at more than 200,000 million Baht annually. The government has found it necessary to regulate the fisheries sector with regards to fleet management, labour in the fisheries sector, and sustainability of marine resources, to be in line with laws and international standards, and to reduce the potential impact on Thai exportation to other countries. In the meantime, the impact on the people’s living conditions must be kept at a minimum.

          As far as the labour issue is concerned, the Prime Minister requested all employers to register their migrant workers by 31 March 2018. He also asked employers to treat all migrant workers well according to the law and to protect them from being exploited. Moreover, the Prime Minister mentioned that Thailand has been using iris scanning technology to capture data in order to track the identities of migrant workers and to help protect their rights. He said that all efforts to solve problems related to labour issues and IUU fishing requires collaborative work from every sector, including private, public sectors, and civil societies.  He stressed that Thailand is aiming to lead the region as well as ASEAN to develop international best practices and labour standards particularly in the fisheries sector. He announced that Thailand attaches great importance to business and human rights in all sectors as well as sustainable environmental conservation and preservation.

          During his trip, the Prime Minister visited the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation, whose work includes rendering assistance to migrant workers in the fisheries sector. The Prime Minister had a brief exchange of information regarding measures to combat human trafficking and migrant workers-related problems as well as on how to foster closer cooperation between the NGOs and relevant government agencies. Later on, the Prime Minister visited Thai Union Group PCL which is the world’s largest exporter of processed seafood. During his visit, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of safety and fair treatment for workers. He was also informed of the development of traceability system for food chains so that the origin of the raw materials can be verified, which in turn will facilitate promoting the sustainability of marine resources.

           Afterwards, the Prime Minister visited the Fish Marketing Organisation in Samut Sakorn Province. During his tour, he met with relevant government officials, fishermen, and both Thai and migrant workers. The Prime Minister inquired after their well-being and listened thoroughly to their concerns. He was also briefed on the latest developments in the fight to combat IUU fishing, including the work of PIPO Centres (Port-in Port-out), FMC (Fisheries Monitoring Center), and the Thai Catch Certificate system. Additionally, the Prime Minister was informed of the iris scan system and the work of the one stop service center set up to facilitate the registration of migrant workers.

 

Press Release : Thailand has set up the Flying Inspection Team to increase the effectiveness of the PIPO Control Centers

          The Royal Thai Government has strengthened the Port-in Port-out (PIPO) Control Centers’ monitoring capacity through the setup of a mobile inspection unit “Flying Inspection Team” or FIT. It has been mandated to operate random vessels inspections in parallel with those of 31 PIPO Centers in 22 coastal provinces in order to cross-check inspections conducted by the said PIPO Centers. The FIT consists of 4 groups, each equipped with 8 inspection experts from the relevant governmental agencies, namely, the Royal Thai Navy, the Department of Fisheries, the Marine Department, the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, the Department of Employment, and the Royal Thai Police.

          The FIT’s inspection procedure is in line with the PIPO Center’s inspection handbook, which includes inspections of vessel documents, fishing gear and catch on board, and seafarers working on the vessel. The FIT’s operation was done from 29 January to 7 February 2018 and resulted in the rejection of 8 fishing vessels to port out due to the inconsistency between the information found during the inspections and that previously submitted to PIPO Centers, such as crew identification number and VMS’ serial numbers. Their cases are currently ongoing. It was also found that one vessel failed to record the information in its logbook and was thus brought before the Administrative Sanction Committee, which issued a fine of 500,000 Thai Baht (approximately over 13,100 Euros). The findings of the FIT’s inspection at an early stage demonstrated that FIT’s standard is consistent with those of the PIPO Centers.

          The findings of the FIT’s inspection also reflected the strengths and weaknesses of each PIPO Center, resulting in the grouping of the PIPO Centers according to their performance. This information is essential to address each group’s particular needs. Moreover, Thailand is planning to revise the number of manpower assigned for each Center, taking into account the volume of port-in port-out requests, and to organize more training sessions for the Centers’ interdisciplinary team. Additionally, the inspection handbook will be revised in order to provide clear, consistent and more effective guidance.  The FIT will continue its mandate in cross-checking the PIPO Centers’ inspections, and any difference found will be analyzed in order to increase the effectiveness of such PIPO Centers.

          The abovementioned procedure has been implemented with a view to strengthening the performance of the PIPO Centers in monitoring and surveillance to ensure that vessels entering and departing Thailand are legal and adhere to proper labour treatments. This will also complement efforts in promoting the traceability in the food supply chain to ensure that Thailand will be free from aquatic animals and fisheries products obtained through illegal fishing and labour mistreatment.

 

Press Release : Thai Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives inspecting Operation to Combat IUU Fishing in Chonburi Province

          On 8 February 2018, Mr. Lak Wajananawatch, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, led a delegation to Chonburi Province to inspect Thailand’s effort to combat IUU fishing, and the control of Thai fishing vessels at the Chonburi Province Port-in Port-out (PIPO) Control Center and the Kanasrinuwat fishing pier as well as visited the Fish Quarantine and Inspection Office at the Laem Chabang Port to inspect imported fisheries product containers. Important progress during the visit is as follows:

          1. The progress of combating IUU fishing, including vessels inspection at the PIPO Center, in order to ensure transparency and adhere to operational standards and fisheries management to ensure sustainability of resources and eradicate IUU fishing.  Such inspection is carried out through the integrated round-the-clock effort by the interdisciplinary team, comprising of the Fisheries Department, Marine Department, Thai Maritime Enforcement Coordinating Center (MECC), Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, Department of Employment, Department of Provincial Administration, and Marine Police Division. During this process, authorities involved would jointly grant fishing vessels permission to carry out their operation at sea, and reenter the port within the timeframe as permitted by law. The PIPO Center has to carry out relevant procedures including documents checking, crew inspection, and fishing vessels inspection in order to ensure the installation of VMS system on the boat as well as the health, wellbeing, and safety of the crew, during both the port-in and port-out process.

           2. Inspection of the verification process of  aquatic animals upon entry to the port, including weight and species identification, port audit, and port operation; system established to ensure traceability of aquatic animals caught by Thai fishing vessels in order to track fisheries products throughout supply chains. All aquatic animals caught must be registered in the logbooks, which contained catch information including the actual descriptions, amount of catch, fishing location and types of fishing gears. After entering the port, aquatic animals will have to be weighed and sorted out according to species, and the Marine Catch Purchasing Document (MCPD) will be filled accordingly, once the aquatic animals are sold. This process is intended to ensure that sources of aquatic animals can be traced back throughout the supply chains. 

           3. Examination of imported fisheries products and the import process, during which goods in containers and documents related to import authorisations were inspected. Aquatic animal importers must seek approval from the Fish Quarantine Inspection Service, Fisheries Department, where animals awaiting importation and relevant documents, including Catch Certificate, Certificate of Origin and Customs Clearance, will be checked. Only when the information is accurate, the importation will be authorised to proceed. In addition, the delegation inspected the entry process of imported fisheries products containers which need to be scanned through X-ray machines and the issuance of the import movement document (IMD) to the authorised importers.

           Deputy Minister reaffirmed Thailand’s commitment in strictly regulating operation of Thai fishing vessels, inspecting of imported fisheries product containers, and  raising awareness among fisheries operators throughout supply chains in order to ensure their cooperation in undertaking lawful fishing activities. In this regard, the Deputy Minister instructed relevant authorities to strictly follow the existing laws and regulations while fisheries product records must be traceable throughout the entire supply chains. These will build confidence of the international community in Thailand’s steadfast efforts to combat IUU fishing and ensure sustainable management of aquatic resources to safeguard sufficient resources and food security for future generations. 

          In this occasion, representatives from Stella Maris and Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) were also invited to attend the inspection. Aside from promoting insightful and accurate understanding among NGOs regarding the actual situation on the ground and showcasing Thailand’s commitment to combat IUU fishing, it offers opportunities for NGO representatives to provide suggestions and exchange ideas which are valuable for improvement of the government’s efforts in the future.

 

Press Release : The Criminal Court’s Special Chamber of Judges on Illegal Fishing Cases Delivered a Hefty fine of 2 million Bahts on the Case of Thai Overseas Fishing Vessel

          On 22 February 2018, the Special Chamber of Judges on Illegal Fishing Cases at the Criminal Court imposed a two-million Baht fine for illegal fishing on the owner of the overseas fishing vessel named “Ruenglarp 9”. The defendant failed to bring the said vessel back to port within the timeframe established by the Department of Fisheries’ Notification. The case is the first being deliberated by the aforementioned Special Chamber of Judges since its inauguration on 1 February 2018.

          The order of the Criminal Court was derived from the fact that the Ruenglarp 9, a commercial fishing vessel weighing 192.17 gross tons, had left Thai waters since 12 March 2015 to fish. Later on, the Department of Fisheries had issued a Notification on 25 December 2015, requesting all owners of fishing vessels, weighing 30 gross tons and above and operating outside Thai waters to bring the vessels back to port within 30 days of the issuance of the Notification. However, the owner of Ruenglarp 9 failed to comply with the Notification. Thus, the Department of Fisheries made a complaint to the Royal Thai Police to begin criminal proceedings against the owner.

          After the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries came into force on 13 November 2015, the Department of Fisheries issued the Notification ordering all overseas vessels to return to Thai port as part of attempts to get all the overseas vessels regulated through the registration and the issuance of licenses. At present, the Department of Fisheries has not permitted the overseas vessels to operate outside of Thai waters until regulations and measures on fisheries and onboard labour protection are completely ready for enactment.

          Last January, the Criminal Court set up two special chambers of judges to solely handle illegal fishing cases, and to have a final ruling within 6 months after the case is accepted. This will enable laws to be enforced more swiftly and effectively with a view to deterring other wrongdoings by fishing operators. To date, there are 65 overseas vessels being prosecuted totaling 80 cases, 55 of which have reached final conclusions. The maximum sentence has been 1 year and 15 months imprisonment and fines of over 130,000,000 Baht (approximately over 3.5 million Euros). All 65 vessels’ registrations have been revoked, and they will not be able to apply for a new license for 5 years.

 

Press Release : Thailand Joins Hands with NGOs Establishing Labour Network in Sea Fisheries Sector

           On 19 February 2018, Thai Government established “the Working Group on Labour Relations Promotion in Sea Fishing Operation” with the aim of improving labour relations systems in sea fishing operations and promoting employees’ collective bargaining and organisations. The Working Group comprises representatives from both Thai and international organisations and NGOs, such as the Life Quality Promotion Network Foundation, the Stella Maris Sri Racha Center, the Environmental Justice Foundation, Human Rights Watch (Asia and Pacific Region), as well as the Committee on Labour Reconciliation of Thailand and the International Labour Organization.

          The Working Group’s mandate is to make the necessary measures and recommendations to promote labour relations in sea fishing operations in accordance with Thailand’s international obligations. For example, establishing a labour network in the fisheries sector is helpful in providing advice on workers’ rights to obtain better bargaining capacity and establish a dialogue platform for employers and employees where workers in the fisheries sector can better voice their concerns and protect their rights accordingly. The Working Group’s recommendations will be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Resolving Illegal Fishing Problems.

          The inaugural meeting of the Working Group was held on 28 February 2018 and resulted in a proposal to establish at least 22 provincial networks of sea fisheries workers in every coastal province of Thailand. The first five pilot coastal provinces for the establishment of the said networks are Chonburi, Samut Sakorn, Samut Songkhram, Samut Prakan and Trang.

          These networks marked the first step towards acknowledging the organisation of employees within the fisheries sector. Members of the networks are representatives of employees, both Thai and migrant, from each fishing vessel, while representatives from the Fisheries Association of Thailand, government agencies, and NGOs will act as consultants. These networks would help workers to better self-regulate and increase their bargaining power to negotiate with employers, encourage dialogue to reduce conflict, give access for employees to make claims for benefits and welfare other than those specified by law, as well as act as a complaint channel.

          In addition, there is also a plan to promote the establishment of a national network of sea fisheries workers which will bring together members of the provincial networks of sea fisheries workers in the future.

          Apart from this, in preparation for the ratifying process of the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 98 by September this year, Thailand is in the process of drafting the Labour Relations Act B.E…. (….) and the State Enterprise Labour Relation Act B.E. …. (….) allowing migrant workers to become members of labour unions. The public hearings from stakeholders on these two Acts have already taken place.

 

Press Release : The Inauguration of ‘Demonstration Boat’ to Promote the Welfare of Seafarers

In accordance with the Royal Thai Government’s policy to promote the welfare of seafarers onboard fishing vessels, the Department of Fisheries, Nestlé S.A., and Thai Union Group PCL officially inaugurated a demonstration boat at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), Samut Prakarn province, on 28 February 2018. The aforementioned project was part of the demonstration boat programme started in 2016.

 

The Demonstration Boat named “Plalang 1” was a refurbished traditional Thai fishing board that has been transformed into a vessel to demonstrate proper living and working conditions on boats – for instance, the allocation of appropriate rest areas, a designated dining area, provision for recreational activities, installation of toilet facilities with proper sanitation standards, and provision of adequate food, drinking water, medicine and medical supplies. Plalang 1 was launched into the sea in December 2017, and since then, the relevant authorities have invited boat owners and boat operators to take part in study tours as well as attend training sessions on the welfare of seafarers for fishing operators and workers onboard. 

 

The Royal Thai Government implemented the Order of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work for Seafarers on 25 February 2016. The project on demonstration boats not only complies with the objectives of the Ministry’s Order but also sets the standard and guidelines for meeting the Convention for Human Rights at Sea of the International Labour Organization (ILO C188). Currently, the Royal Thai Government is planning to ratify the Convention by June 2018 and improve laws and regulations to efficiently promote labour protection and the welfare of workers in the fisheries sector.

 

The demonstration boat project is a result of the excellent initiative based on the Pracharath (social enterprises) policy to promote cooperation between the public and private sector. This initiative is led by the Department of Fisheries, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, in cooperation with Nestlé, Thai Union, SEAFDEC, and NGOs such as Verité. It aims to promote the rights and welfare of seafarers in the fisheries sector to ensure that they will be protected under Thai law, taking into account safety standards and the quality of living conditions, with a view to elevating Thailand’s fisheries sector to be in line with international standards.

 

Press Release: The Rescue Operation to Assist a Myanmar Fishing Crew in Thai Waters

          On 21 February 2018, Thai authorities joined forces in providing assistance to a Myanmar fishing crewman on board “Limudomchai 25” fishing vessel who was suffering from an acute stomach ache and was timely transferred to a hospital in Ranong Province. He is currently in stable condition.

          The rescue operation originated from the Port-in Port-out Control Center in Phang-nga Province, where it was informed by the vessel master of Limudomchai 25 - located then in the area of Surin Islands – requesting urgent assistance for the transfer of a sick Myanmar crewman. Thereafter, H.T.M.S. Narathiwas was contacted to take the sick crewman aboard for first-aid assistance, and the Third Naval Area Command subsequently sent a helicopter to deliver the sick crewman to Ranong Airport. From there, an ambulance arranged by the Thai-Myanmar Fisheries Coordinating Center and Ratchakrud Municipal Emergency Unit immediately took him to receive the emergency medical treatment at Ranong Hospital.

          The success of this rescue operation is a result of cooperation among the relevant agencies in setting up a system to prioritize the rescue of fishing crew as soon as a request is made. Regardless of their nationalities, anyone who is in a vulnerable state in Thai waters will receive immediate assistance in accordance with international humanitarian practices.

 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, http://mfa.go.th/main/en/news3/6886