Tracing system an issue for IUU fishing

Tracing system an issue for IUU fishing

The system for tracing fishing products remains a challenge but the government is making progress in getting off the European Union commission’s watchlist for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, says the Department of Fisheries.

The EU has slapped a warning, or “yellow card”, on Thailand for abuses in the industry such as hiring illegal labourers and a lack of transparency.

An EU delegation will visit Thailand this month to inspect for the first time the system for tracing products in the industry, said Umaporn Pimolbutr, deputy chief of the Department of Fisheries.

EU commissioners have audited the industry several times since the yellow card was issued in 2015, but so far the tracing system has not been singled out for review, she said.

Ms Umaporn admitted the system has not yet achieved 100% accuracy because of the complexity of local marine ecological systems and the variety of fishing equipment used.

“We will try our best to make it complete,” she said. “If we pass the examination, there may be some good news on the horizon. But however prepared we may be, something could come along at any time to derail the situation.”

The tracing-products system is a chief concern of the EU because most fishery products from Thailand do not contain information identifying which fishing boats or equipment were used to catch them.

To improve the situation, local authorities have been trying to get commercial ports, fishing boats and processing plants to provide full details of their catches and operations by registering with an online database.

The EU is due to decide on the yellow card in March.

Meanwhile, the department said trawlers that plan to change their fishing licences have until Dec 15 to register.

Some 10,570 trawlers have fishing licences.

Many are being urged to merge their licences with smaller boats so fishing activities can be easily monitored and fishing stocks can repopulate. However, only 50 have shown an interest, officials said.