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EU issues yellow card on Thailand over illegal fishing
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The European Commission on Tuesday put Thailand on formal notice for not taking sufficient measures in the international fight against illegal fishing (IUU).

Thailand has six months to implement a corrective tailor-made action plan, read a press release issued on Tuesday.

“As a result of a thorough analysis and a series of discussions with Thai authorities since 2011, the Commission has denounced the country’s shortcomings in its fisheries monitoring, control and sanctioning systems and concludes that Thailand is not doing enough,” read the statement.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, added, “Our EU rigorous policy on a harmful practice such as illegal fishing, together with our genuine capacity to act, is paying off.

“I urge Thailand to join the European Union in the fight for sustainable fisheries. Failure to take strong action against illegal fishing will carry consequences.”

Should the situation not improve, the EU could resort to banning fisheries imports from Thailand. Such a measure was taken in the past with Belize, Guinea, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Imports from Belize were banned last year, but due to the reforming efforts of the authorities they are now allowed.

In the meantime, the Commission acknowledged that two fishing nations, Korea and Philippines, have carried out appropriate reforms of their legal systems and are now equipped to tackle illegal fishing.

The Commission therefore stopped the “identification” procedure that had started with a yellow card to Korea in November 2013 and the Philippines in June 2014.

The EU ban issued today follows Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya visiting Phuket on Sunday to hear firsthand reports about the fishing industry in Phuket, following the ministry’s launch of a crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishers in the region (story here).

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which is leading the push in Thailand, launched the anti-IUU campaign in Phuket, Chumphon, Ranong and Songkhla following the seizure of Atlantic toothfish vessel Taishan in Phuket last month.

The ship had already fled from the navies of New Zealand and Australia, as well as global conservation organization Sea Shepherd, before passing through Indonesian waters and mooring near Phuket (story here).

The captain, Jose Alberto Zavaleta Salas, reported the cargo as 182 tonnes of grouper, valued at about 15 million baht (story here).

However, experts have confirmed that the ship had in fact offloaded 182 tonnes of Antarctic toothfish, valued at about 179mn baht.

— Phuket Gazette Editors