Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thailand demands catch certificates from Myanmar fishermen

Thai traders have started asking Myanmar’s fishermen to provide catch certificates as the European Union tightens oversight of Thailand’s troubled fishing industry.

A fisherman sits on his boat in Myeik. Photo: Wa Lone / The Myanmar TimesA fisherman sits on his boat in Myeik. Photo: Wa Lone / The Myanmar Times

The EU now requires Thailand – a major global supplier of seafood – to prove where its fish have been caught when exporting internationally, said industry insiders, after a number of serious abuses were uncovered including forced labour and violence.

Catch certificates should help to combat illegal fishing and ensure the security of workers, said U Sein Thaung, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries in MyeIk district.

Thailand has been warned twice by the EU to crack down on illegal fishing or face a trade ban on seafood imports. An EU embargo could also forbid European ships from fishing in Thailand’s seas.

To try to avoid this, Thailand is making serious efforts at reform, and now requires Myanmar suppliers to provide certification, said U San Maung, a director at Myeik Public Corporation.

“Actually it would be very good for Myanmar if the EU restricted Thailand’s fishery products. The problem is, Myanmar’s market is highly dependent on Thailand,” he said.

Fishermen must apply for certification from Myanmar’s fishery department, specifying the species of fish for sale and which territory it has been caught in.

If the certification process does not run smoothly it could leave more than 1000 fishing and carrier vessels in

Myeik district out of work, said U Thet Soe, secretary general of the Tanintharyi Region Fisheries Federation.

“If Thailand further tightens its restrictions on selling fish, we will need to set up a functioning fish market in Myeik. We are trying to do this soon, as we can’t consume all the fish we catch here.”

U Sein Thaung said he didn’t foresee any problems. “I think it is not such a big issue. The fishery department can collaborate with private fishing vessels to issue certificates in good time,” he said.

According to data released by the fisheries department, there are 8125 inshore fishing vessels, 801 offshore fishing vessels, 114 offshore carrier vessels and 139 inshore carrier vessels licensed to operate in Myeik district.

U Thet Soe added that the fishing industry in Tanintharyi Region is thriving as the price of diesel falls. More than 1000 unlicensed fishing vessels operating in Thailand’s Mahachai, near to Bangkok, were forced ashore by the military government, providing additional opportunities to Myanmar’s suppliers, he said.

As previously reported by The Myanmar Times, the value of the local industry is rising fast. In 2003, fisheries exports from Tanintharyi, mostly to Thailand and Malaysia, were worth US$40 million. By 2014 they were worth $144 million, according to the local federation.