And as I said last year: I'm not going to even try to dissect the whole tangled mess. But yes... Thailand has not been particularly clean, but then, they weren’t been pushed to be clean (quite conveniently) by the international community, nor their clients. They have a very efficient and effective production system, but their fisheries controls have been kind of the opposite.
I think a red card was actually never on the agenda, since tuna imports from Thailand to the EU would have not been affected, since the IUU Regulation is a flag state measure. This means that for the purposes of imported foreign-caught raw materials, Thailand is considered a processing state rather than flag state, and the regulation is not explicit about processing state responsibilities in terms of addressing IUU fishing (they only require the completion of an annex to EU Catch Certificate regarding processing - "the processing statement").
Having worked here before, I was quite happy to be contracted by the Thai Department of Fisheries and Ocean Mind (that has been working with DoF on PSM support by doing intelligence analysis via IAS on the Advance Request Entry to Port -AREP that Thailand requires from all carriers coming to unload).
Ocean Mind has been working with DoF on PSM support by doing intelligence analysis via IAS on the Advance Request Entry to Port -AREP that Thailand requires from all carriers coming to unload. My job was to evaluate Thailand's systems and improvements, they contacted me by a recommendation of the Papua New Guinean government, who were quite happy with the work I did with them during their yellow card period.
After having helped 6 countries to get off their "Yellows" and having been a dodgy fisherman (in a past I'm not too proud of), I have become some sort of a IUU control systems and the EU Catch Certification systems designer and beta-tester for many countries. And this was the role I was asked to perform over two "full on" weeks around ports, factories, offices, border crossings and container ports in across Thailand, trying to "hack" the system and then providing feedback on the issues found.
Finding issues and inconsistencies in peoples' work is not a role I enjoy, yet that is what IUU operators do. So I always start these jobs explaining the situation and asking them to see me as "mother in law" who's nature is to find the 1 thing wrong among the 99 that are right.
I'm not going to go into the details, but I was pleasantly surprised with the advances and scope of their systems. Their commitment to a better management of its fisheries resources, control over its fisheries, as well as the legality of its fishery imports is to be recognised. It never felt "fake" to me, or that they were trying to put on a "performance" I was given full access to anything I needed.
The country has upgraded in a very short time its control systems with the aim to be at international best practices, and its fishery administration has gone over a generational shift, I worked with many young and committed people in positions of power, which really was quite refreshing.
While there are issues that still need more attention, most of the recommendations I provided refer to the strengthening and refinement of existing tools and initiatives, and not the creation of completely new ones, which would have been the case only a few years ago, when I last work there. It has been a remarkable turnaround.
In fisherman talk: "3 years ago they had no boat, today I was discussing gear improvements and the boat finishing details, while we all were standing on it doing sea trials".
I’m totally aware (because advising on these type changes is my job) of the level of effort and commitment required by the fisheries sector (government and industry) to get to this stage. So it did not surprise me to learn that no one in DoF had holidays in the last 18 months and working till 9 pm on a Saturday night, did not raise an eyebrow (other than my ones!)... I have never seen that in any Fisheries administration in my life.
I can only congratulate all involved and keep working the weak angles identified as to sustain the efforts into the foreseeable future, no one wants to come back to what it was 2-3 years ago when I last evaluated your (lack off) systems.
Obviously (albeit unfortunately) the “name and shame” strategy of the EU, has been an effective catalyser to get things into action. Yet in any case, the fishing world wins with a Thailand living up to its responsible fishing nation capacities. The battle they are winning there, has massive repercussions to the tuna industry, both in terms of Illegal but also unreported fishing.