In fact, Thailand has implemented substantial reforms, designed to eradicate illegal fishing and address human rights abuse at sea. However, the National Fishing Association of Thailand has recently been lobbying the government to roll-back many of these progressive measures. The EJF adds that this show of renewed political will to protect and strengthen the reforms is a welcome sign.
In 2018, Thailand became the first Asian country to authorize the International Labour Organization’s convention, promising protection to the victims of forced labor and sanctions for the perpetrators.
Adding to this, this year, Thailand was also the first country in Asia to ratify the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention C188, setting some basic standards of work within the fishing industry. The E.U. recognized the progress and subsequently delisted Thailand from the group of "warned countries" and removed the country’s “yellow card” trade warning, which has been in place since April 2015, over illegal fishing was lifted earlier this year, as recognition of the progress it has made in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Thailand’s monitoring, surveillance and enforcement capabilities have also shown good progress; other important steps have been a move towards transparency, including making license lists public.
Recently, the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT) raised concerns, demanding that all restrictions on crew and catch transfers at sea are lifted. It is noted that such an action would potentially allow operators launder illegally caught fish between boats so it is no longer traceable, allowing it to make its way into international supply chains undetected.
Additionally, vessel owners to swap enslaved migrants between ships so that they almost never make landfall with virtually no chance of escaping or detection by authorities. Indeed many such cases have been reported in Thai fisheries before the current reforms were implemented.
At the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister stated that “Thailand acknowledges the importance of continuing with the reforms, and the government will persevere with that to secure marine sustainability and lead the country to become an IUU free nation,” showcasing the commitment of the government to take a firm stance on driving the reforms forward.
It is reported that the reforms have had a clear, important and positive impact on Thailand’s fisheries and the entire region of Southeast Asia, as well as to the country’s economy, fish stocks and international reputation. It is also added that the EJF remains committed to working with the government and all other stakeholders across the fishing and seafood sectors to deliver a sustainable, legal and ethical industry.
In early 2019, Thailand was the first country in Asia to accept the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188), that protects the living and working conditions of fishers onboard vessels and has specific requirements related to work on board fishing vessels, including occupational safety, health, medical care at sea and ashore rest periods, written work agreements, and social security protection, is aiming to ensure that fishing vessels provide decent living conditions for fishers on board and is expected to come into force a year after ratification, in 30 January 2020.