Marine officials clamp down on IUU fishing in Phuket

PHUKET: Local maritime officers and fishing operators gathered yesterday to discuss measures launched to shut down illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in the region.

The push for solutions follows the EU putting Thailand on formal notice on April 21 for not taking sufficient measures in the international fight against IUUs (story here). Thailand was given six months to implement a corrective tailor-made action plan.

The yellow card was issued after a joint task force in Phuket seized an IUU vessel wanted for fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean after it falsely reported and offloaded its cargo (story here).

The ship, Taishan, had already fled from the navies of New Zealand and Australia, as well as global conservation organization Sea Shepherd, before passing through Indonesian waters and mooring near Phuket.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has since ordered navy commanders throughout the country to take strong action on IUUs, prompting the forum yesterday at Royal Phuket City Hotel in Phuket Town, which was attended by officials and operators from Thailand Maritime Enforcement Coordinating Center Area 3 (Thai MECC 3).

Thai MECC 3 covers the six southern provinces of Phuket, Ranong, Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang and Satun.

“The main purpose of this meeting is to give relevant officers the opportunity to present their suggestions and address problems they have faced so far in tackling IUU fishing,” said Vice Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, commander of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, yesterday.

“We will solve any problems as soon as we can. Everyone involved in this industry needs to work together to stop these illegal activities.”

V/Adm Sayan noted, however, that much progress had already been made in preventing IUU fishing.

“We have already opened the Port in-Port out Control Center [story here]. Now, we are in the process of opening a One-Stop Fishing Service, and eventually we will be installing Vessel Monitoring Systems [VMS] on all fishing boats,” he said, though he did not when the VMS would have to be installed.

Just last month, Phuket Marine Office chief Phuriphat Theerakulpisut announced that fishing boats up to 60 gross tonnes must install VMS (story here), as part of an effort to improve safety on the water.

V/Adm Sayan added that a special navy unit, dedicated to monitoring the sea and all of the island’s ports for illegal fishing activities, will be launched at 2pm today at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) in Cape Panwa,

“Each of the six Thai MECC 3 provinces will see all of the same measures taken to combat IUUs,” he said.

V/Adm Sayan explained that the main problem addressed at the meeting was in regards to boat registration and licencing.

“Recently, we have ordered more than 1,000 boat owners to report to us so that we can ensure that they have the proper licences, and check all of their documents along with documents from the Marine Office,” he said.

“We are in the process of determining exactly how many fishing boats are working in our area. Once we know this, we can better monitor their activities and, in turn, better combat IUUs.”

All information collected by the officers will be sent to the Royal Thai Navy, the Thailand MECC and other relevant offices, confirmed V/Adm Sayan.

— Kongleaphy Keam

Phuket News

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