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Phuket Environment: Fishing till the seas run dry

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: There are certain indisputable facts about fish. With very few exceptions, they look good, taste good and they do you good. Dietitians recommend at least two fishy portions a week. So-called “oily fish” – herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines – are especially good for you since they contain omega 3 fatty acids that help keep immune systems healthy and prevent cardiovascular problems.

Fish and chips, usually battered and wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper, used to be the favorite fodder of working class Britain. Not any more. Wild fish, even the humble cod, have become scarce and consequently expensive.

Phuket Environment: Fishing till the seas run dry | News by The Thaiger
TRAWL: The huge nets used by trawlers. Photo: NOAA

Why this parlous state of affairs? The over-riding reason is over-fishing. True, there are other factors such as pollution, global warming, and the loss of habitat. But the insatiable greed of the industry, coupled with the sheer efficiency of modern commercial methods, is to blame.

The herring and mackerel shoals of the North Sea are a thing of the past. It was estimated in the late 1960s that the herring population was down to one per cent of its former numbers and fishing was banned completely in 1977.

Across the Atlantic, the cod industry of Newfoundland collapsed, another victim of over-exploitation on a grand scale. A vast natural resource vanished, whole eco-systems were changed and the cod have never returned.

Closer to home, the commercial fishing of tuna – up from one million to four million tonnes a year – has reached such a state that a BBC documentary, “South Pacific”, estimates that continued fishing at current levels may see a collapse of stock within five years. And not just yellow-fin, but blue and black fin, albacore and big-eye tuna as well.
The story could be repeated about other species and habitats, as well.

In Thailand, one estimate leads us to believe that the Kingdom has about 40,000 fishing vessels, with the number of trawlers – the worst offenders – at just over 2,000. For some incomprehensible reason, the fishing industry wants to up these numbers to 3,619 vessels.

Both figures are almost certainly ludicrous underestimations anyway. And in any case, there must already be more than enough trawlers, since there is a severe and measurable decline in the numbers of fish being caught. If you don’t believe the figures, ask any sport fisherman.

A sailing friend, who regularly fishes by rod and line on extended trips around the islands, told me he is now lucky to catch three tuna a day. And the largest weigh less than three kilos.

But it is not just the sheer numbers of boats; it is the methods they employ. Trawling is the most annihilative of all techniques for catching fish. A trawl is a huge, bag-shaped affair with a closed end dragged for miles along the sea bed behind a powerful boat. Its maw is weighed down with heavy metal bars to ensure it scours the sea bed.

And scour the sea bed it does, divesting of everything that lives down below: fish and squid, crustaceans (such as crabs, shrimp and lobster), even the plants (such as sea grass) that grow there. Any coral that happens to be in its path is unceremoniously ripped from its watery home. The process has been likened to total deforestation, a technique known as “clearcutting”.

Remorseless and cruel, trawling ensures that fish trapped in its maw are often already dead before the net is lifted several hours later. It is, moreover, totally indiscriminate. What is euphemistically called the “by-catch” may contain sharks, dolphins, porpoises or turtles. Six Olive Ridley turtles found stranded recently on a Phuket beach were all in distress. One had a huge propeller gash in its shell, two were missing flippers, a likely result of becoming ensnared in the sharp nylon mesh of a trawl.

Worldwide, it is estimated that 1,000 marine mammals die every day by poor fishing practices; in Danish waters alone, the fishing fleet kills 3,000 porpoises a year. And up to sixty per cent of this by-catch is returned, already lifeless, to a watery grave.

Trawlers in Thailand are supposed to respect a three mile offshore limit. But if you frequent any west coast beach in Phuket, you will see trawlers sailing well within that boundary. Judged by their snail-like speed, they may already be trawling.

Indeed, it is estimated that the same furrow of sea bed may be ploughed three times a year – especially around Phuket, where the water is shallow enough and the bottom smooth enough to enable dredging to continue unchecked. Under these circumstances, what chance is there for the re-establishment of marine life?

There are of course other methods used by commercial fishermen. Gill nets are long panels of netting, set at any depth and supported by headline floats at the top and weighted foot-ropes at the bottom. Sometimes these small monsters can be several kilometers in length. Like trawls, they do not respect aquatic life: they catch fish by wedging their bodies and gills, or by tangling their fins in the mesh. They also accidentally ensnare cetaceans, especially whales and dolphins.

Seines and purse seines are another weapon in the fisherman’s armory. Seines nets were used, as were gill nets, by artisanal fishermen the world over, long before the advent of huge vessels and sophisticated equipment such as radar, sonar, high-powered winches and high-wattage lighting.

Purse seines are more sophisticated: they operate by encircling shoals of fish and then preventing them from ‘sounding’ [going deep] by using a draw string to close the base of the net, thereby forming a purse from which the fish cannot escape. Often used for tuna or marlin fishing, or to catch varieties of pelagic fish which shoal near the surface, they can be used in deeper water where the bottom is too rocky or uneven for trawling. Even fishing by hook and line is more damaging than one might think. After all, some of these lines, baited at regular intervals, can stretch fifty miles behind a ship.

Nylon or polypropylene materials are bad news since they are virtually indestructible. Probably more responsible than any other single invention for the appalling efficiency of modern-day commercial fishing, mono-filament nylon nets last for years. They resist abrasion by rocks, tear coral to pieces, entrap, throttle and cut fish, and ensnare marine mammals. And these nets are practically invisible in sea water.

Some, have a mesh so fine that they allow almost nothing to escape. Melancholy mountains of tiny fish in any Thai fresh market, maybe millions in number, are testament to that.

Phuket Environment: Fishing till the seas run dry | News by The Thaiger
CATCH OF THE DAY: Scene at a Thai fish market after the catch has been brought in. Photo: Magnetic Globetrotter.

A visitor to Ranong fish market recently observed that, inexplicably, about 95 per cent of the fish on sale there consisted of juvenile barracuda. None of them had been given the chance to grow to adulthood, to reach a size where they might help replenish depleted stocks.

And not only hatchlings are killed: the impact on other species dependent on any small fish for food is incalculable. In temperate waters, huge catches of sand eels are made. Most end up as fish meal, while larger fish such as haddock or cod and birds such as kittiwake gulls or puffins are
deprived of their main source of fo

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by CNN Travel. Thailand’s coconut milk and potato-based curry (add the meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also featuring. The hot and spicy shrimp soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

Massaman curry, 1st place: Emphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Tom Yum Kung, 8th place: This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

Som Tam/Papaya salad, 46th place: To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Protests

K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht

The Thaiger

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K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Fan-funded 'happy birthday' signs around Thailand's BTS and MRT station

Art meets politics again, this time with hundreds of thousands of K-Pop fans raising funds in support of the growing student protest movement in Thailand. So far they’ve raised more than 3 million baht (as of 10am this morning) but the amount is rising quickly as Thai and overseas K-Pop fans respond. The most popular band in Thailand at the moment is BTS, the South Korean septet which is currently the most popular band in the world (as of today BTS commands the Number 1 and Number 2 positions on the US Billboard singles chart).

BTS fans have so far been the largest contributors donating funds to the protest cause.

The BTS Thailand page, not to be confused with the BTS Skytrain, is urging K-pop fans to stop the practice of paying for billboards in support of their favourite idols and to celebrate the birthdays of the 7 members. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook issued a statement on their fanpage asking fans to stop funding the BTS and MRT “inconvenienced protesters and normal citizens from getting home and putting them in danger”.

Bangkok’s two main rail systems were closed down over the weekend as police and protesters played a cat and mouse game. The protesters were withholding the announcement of protest locations to the last minute whilst police second-guessed their moves, ending up in mass inconvenience for the wider public in shutting down the entire network, including the Airport link.

“We’re calling Armys and other fans to stop buying ad projects with the BTS and MRT.” (“Army” is the name of BTS fans.

Fans of K-pop groups as well as other “idol” groups often pool their resources to purchase display ads in the MRT and BTS stations wishing their stars happy birthday or on other significant anniversaries.

It’s thought that many more millions of baht will be raised by the K-Pop fans in the next few days.

The young Thai protesters are tapping into a strong social media network, and have “weaponised” the social media and messaging platforms. The main App they are now using, to communicate their intentions, is “Telegram”, developed by a young Russian couple but now operating out of Germany. The App features encypted messages, impossible to track, and has 400 million monthly active users.

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging, video telephony and voice over IP service with end-to-end encryption for secret chat only, whereas Cloud chat uses client-server/server-client encryption and its messages are stored encrypted in the Telegram Cloud – Wikipedia

Meanwhile, other K-Pop acts that have mobilised their fans win support include Girls’ Generation, GOT7, NCT, WannaOne, Nu’est, X1, Day 6, Red Velvet, MonstaC, Woodz, Shinee, Super Junior and R1se. We’re sure the fans of Black Pink are also contributing but didn’t have their figures available at the time of publishing. Fans of popular Thai actors and celebrities are also donating to the pool.

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Property

Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19 | The Thaiger

The Coronavirus outbreak poses challenges for Thailand’s property market as potential Chinese condominium buyers remain stranded in China. Meanwhile, some believe that the outbreak may bring opportunities for non-Chinese buyers and in the long-run, the Chinese may be looking for an overseas refuge in the event of these types of emergencies popping up again

Through all this, there will be a certain level of pent up demand for Thai real estate.

Of course, it’s not just the Chinese unable to come and inspect potential buys, the rest of the world is also mostly shut out of Thailand.

Market remains weak

The pandemic is hurting the condominium market as Chinese nationals were accounting for half of the international buyers in Thailand, or 57.6% of the total foreign condo owners in 2018.

Vichai Viratkapan, acting director-general of the Real Estate Information Centre says that 50% of Chinese condo transfers are expected to disappear in the first 2 quarters of this year and the total transfer value by the Chinese will miss the mark of the usual 29 billion baht by about 25% (around 7 billion).

However, since Chinese property buyers only make up 6% of the total international and domestic housing transfers in Thailand, the proportion of total housing transfers in the country is likely to be similar to last year.

Developers looking to sell current stock whilst shelving new projects

CBRE reports that most Thai developers are postponing the launch of new condo projects to focus on clearing existing stock.

“Discounting completed projects to generate quick revenue as a financial lifeboat is the best solution for many of the country’s larger developers whilst the market is in limbo.”

Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, head of CBRE Research and Consulting in Thailand believes that, now business is gradually recovering, a few developers have started to launch new condominium projects.

“In the first half of 2020, the Bangkok condominium landscape was gloomy with fewer than 10,000 condominium units launched, which was much lower than the total number of new launches in the past three years of more than 60,000 condominium units per year.”

The Chinese are reluctant to complete transfers

The virus has continued to affect hospitality operators, including hotels and condominiums that service tourists, nationwide. Since China has suspended tours, put restrictions on movement, and locked down cities, home to over millions of people, it also poses a threat to real estate developers as their clients are unable or unwilling to fly.

“Currently multiple off-plan condominium developments are approaching completion, and Chinese clients are unable or unwilling to transfer. Chinese clients who made a reservation in Q4 2019 are requesting a refund and withholding their investment,” said Marciano Bijmohun, Business Development Director at FazWaz Property Group.

He believes every condominium that is in transfer status will see the percentage of non-transfer units rise in the coming months.

“These non-transfer units will cause a big financial hit to developers.”

If a client refuses to transfer, does not comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in the sales and purchase agreement, and decides to release the property, their deposits will be forfeited.

“However, there is some good news, these non-transferred units can be offered with a discount to new clients.”

Also, as China has been susceptible to a few disease outbreaks – from bird flu to the current coronavirus – it may prompt Chinese buyers to look for second homes outside of China.

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