Thailand signs the Port State Measures Agreement / by Francisco Blaha

Thailand, IUU fishing, the labor conditions on some of their vessels are a lot on the news at the moment (and I'm in Thailand at the moment). They have been hit (justifiably) from a lot of angles: EU IUU yellow cards, slave labor exposes, Greenpeace campaigns, and the lot.

 On the way to a Bangkok party?

On the way to a Bangkok party?

I'm not going to even try to dissect the whole tangled mess. But yes... Thailand has not been particularly clean, but then nor they have been push to be clean by the international community, nor the clients. They have a very efficient and effective production system, they have been good on the food safety side, but as it comes out now their fisheries controls have been quite useless.

Not surprisingly they are running every where now trying to plug holes, good on them... however there is always a risk to choke when you re trying to swallow to much. The signing of the FAO PSMA is however very significant, and if they manage to implement it, it could turn the tide a bit!

I'll quote from my friend Pramod's blog, as he is much better writer than I'm and hit the sport on the situation

Thailand is a major player in global seafood trade and processing of fishery products. Among the major fish producer countries Thailand was ranked 14 in 2012 with capture fisheries landings of more than 1.6 million tonnes. However, Thailand exhibits its dominance as the third largest exporter of seafood in the world (8.1% of the global seafood exports valued at 8079 million US$ in 2012) after China and Norway.

With bulk of the production dependent on imported raw material from other countries ports play a major role in entry of products for both legal and illegal origin. Currently, very little is known about the extent of inspections in Thai fishing ports? With a sprawling network of fishing ports spread across Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, more than 15 ports cater large fishing vessels while 12 smaller ports cater imports for smaller vessels from Malaysia, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Vessels wishing entry are required to inform authorities at least 48 hours in advance and both Thai port authorities and the Department of Fisheries have the authority to deny entry for foreign vessels. In most cases, fishing boats are allowed to land.

In order to strengthen catch inspections Thailand is also developed an electronic system for the traceability of fish and fishery products (under the guidance of my friend Gilles Hosch) . Under the new Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) that came into effect from November last year more intense inspections are required to deny entry to illegal vessels and strengthen inspections at ports (However is not working yet)

Thai has some massive Challenges:

  • Imports of huge volumes of frozen and processed seafood from foreign countries poses challenges for inspectors at ports. More than 50% of the imports comprised of tuna, followed by frozen fish (38%), cephalopods (6%) and shrimps, etc.
  • Multiple agencies are involved in fisheries inspections at ports before cargo is cleared by customs.
  • There is very little information on current state of inspections at Thai ports (EU – Yellow card has led to progress on several fronts in both administration and legal contexts).
  • There are significant landings of fish and seafood products of Thai origin in fishing docks spread along both coasts.
  • Domestic fishing fleet of more than 50,000 trawlers. VMS transponders have already been installed on 2100 trawlers above 60 gross tonnes.
  • There is currently no data on number of foreign flagged reefers and fishing vessels visiting Thai ports and what percentage is inspected each year (and here is the key issue around tuna)

For the sake of world fisheries, I hope they get the act together and are able to deliver. While we are trying to choke IUU from the capture side, countries are processing the IUU fish that still being fished, and many fingers point here.