Military junta’s fishing gear ban shock most legal fishing trawlers

The latest ban of possession and use of six kinds of fishing gears by the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has been a shock to the fishing industry with outcry from thousands of owners of fishing boats in coastal provinces and fishing association that they are not prepared for such lightning action.

They came out in meetings calling on the prime minister to suspend enforcement of the order so they will have time to adapt themselves.

They said their boats have legal licences and the order affect legal boat operators.

They said the new order was not clearly defined and difficult to understand.

The junta head’s order prompted a meeting of over a hundred of legally registered push net fishing boat operators at Wat Kamphra temple located in Bang Ya Praek sub-district in Samut Sakorn municipality.

The meeting was an attempt to come up with a creditable petition which will be handed over to the NCPO as well as the Command Center for Combating Illegal Fishing (CCCIF) over bans that will have detrimental effects on their operations even though their vessels have been legally registered and complies with international fishing standards.

In all, more than 300 push net fishing vessels operate from Samut Sakhon province.

Meanwhile more than 200 push net fishermen at Wat Sri Suntharam also held a meeting to discuss the government’s ban and find a solution to the problem so that they can continue to fishing.

The meeting was attended by legally registered vessel operators, large and small as well as other rogue boat operators.

In the meeting, they complained that the government should have sent officials to study the actual conditions in which push net fishermen were operating before hastily announcing the ban.

Furthermore, they commented that they should have been given time to adapt to the new laws and be given the opportunity to find alternative fishing methods before being banned from carrying out push net fishing indefinitely.

The meeting closed with a resolution to petition the Administrative Court to intervene on their behalf or in the worse case petition His Majesty the King.

Similarly, fishermen in neighbouring Samut Songkram province also organized a hasty meeting following the ban which took them by surprise and does not allow them any time to adjust.

Fishermen here are asking for a 90-day leniency period citing that most of them have no inclination of all the details involved with the new law.

In either development, encircling net anchovy fishermen in Rayong province also held  similar meetings and complained that the new laws will severely affect their livelihood.

Fishermen here are imploring the government to help them and to reconsider its decision to invoke Article 44.

They state that they have not fished for the last 40 days as a result of a previous announcement requiring them legally register their vessels and now shockingly are faced with new bans that will cripple their operations.

The secretary-general of the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association meanwhile, commented that the invoking of Article 44 to tackle illegal fishing operations was commendable but the new bans are now affecting legally registered fishing boats as well.

Furthermore, many fishing vessels in Nakhon Si Thammarat province have been docked for some time now as they have yet to comply with new regulations and the new ban will be viewed as a further obstacle for them.

A major meeting is being planned by the association with its members to find ways out of the debacle.

The invoking of Article 44 puts a ban on 6 types of fishing gears such as push nets, encircling nets, set bag or stow nets, otter trawl, day anchovy purse seine and anchovy falling nets.

More importantly, unregistered fishing vessels are to be seized, destroyed, or decommissioned.

Anyone found not complying with the new laws will face a fine of between 100,000 – 500,000 Baht and/or a 5 year jail term.

Gen Prayut’s order is the latest of a host of measures adopted by the government to deal with the problem of illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing in light of European Union’s putting pressure on Thailand to address the problem of illegal fishing and the use of slave labour in fishing industry.