New laws 'too weak' to solve local fishery problems: NGOs


Agencies call for stricter measures including ban on destructive fishing

THE NEW Fisheries Act is not enough to solve the problems of the Thai fishery sector and the sustainable restoration of Thai natural sea resources, according to some prominent NGOs.
The discussion forum at Greenpeace’s Southeast Asia office yesterday came out with four suggestions from the concerned agencies on the 2015 Fisheries Act: Outlaw the destructive fishery equipment; stop the registration of illegal trawlers; strictly enforce the fisheries law and strengthen the inspection system; and cooperate with neighbouring countries on regional fishery management.
Banjong Nasae, president of the Thai Sea Watch Association, said the new act did not forbid the real destroyers of marine natural resources – trawl nets, push nets and fishing trawlers with fish-attracting lights, which diminish many types of fish juveniles and lessen the country’s seafood stock.
“The government apparently concentrates on meeting the IUU [illegal unregulated and unreported fisheries) regulations by registering the illegal trawlers but ignores the country’s marine natural resource management,” Banjong said.
He advised the government to stop the new registration of these trawlers, which many countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia have already abolished.
“There are three possible measures the government could take – first, use its power to prohibit this destructive fishing immediately; second, compensate trawler owners and take over their trawlers and, thirdly, allow these trawlers to register, unless their exports are banned by the European Union,” he stated.
Supaporn Anuchiracheeva, from the Earth Net Foundation, pointed out that the new act is broadly written and still needs smaller laws to clarify it in detail, which leads to the problem in implementing the law in reality.
“The port-in, port-out measure is one example of the policy which cannot be fully implemented because there are many fishing piers along the shore – not only the 26 port-in, port-out stations of the government,” Supaporn said.
Local Fisheries Association of Thailand president Wichoksak Ronarongpairee pointed out that the agencies all hoped the new act would solve every problem – but he said it was too good to be true as the power to enforce the law is held by only a small number of high-ranking bureaucrats.
“The law enforcement in reality is very problematic, as there are only a few officers and a few boats to cover the vast sea area. The inattention of the officers is also the problem as in many cases the officers were not keen to watch over and arrest the illegal fishing offenders,” Wichoksak said.
He also revealed that the punishment of illegal fishing is too weak as Section 99 of the new Fisheries Act allows the officers to impose fines on almost all law-breaking activities under the act and was too extensive.
“These offenders are not afraid of costly fines. They can pay a fine and then continue their illegal fishing, which brings in more money than the fine,” he said.
He suggested that local fishing communities should have an opportunity to help the authorities look after and promote the sustainable use of marine resources.