The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and associated labour issues is a major challenge for Thailand.
First, let me state that the Thai government is committed, from the highest political levels down, to fulfilling our international obligations to combat IUU fishing, protect human rights and prevent human trafficking.
The reality of putting these objectives into practice is complicated, but it is a challenge we are working on. Here I would like to share with you the steps we are taking as I know the European Parliament takes a great interest in these matters.
There is no better time to modernise our vital fisheries sector which sustains the livelihoods of two million people working in the supply chain of the industry – as well as the local fishermen and operators themselves.
But change on such a scale, with so much at stake, takes time. We are one of the world’s biggest seafood and fisheries processors and exporters.
We now need to ensure that we have the world class IUU and labour scorecard to match our market footprint.
The EU issued Thailand with an IUU yellow card warning in April 2015 and we have until October 2015 to show real progress in compliance. This has been a major catalyst for reform of our fisheries policy but we still have work to do.
As I said before, we are committed to long term change and compliance and we will not cut corners to satisfy short-term requirements.
We have accelerated our fisheries sector reform process with some major successes. For instance, we opened our command centre for combating illegal fishing in May 2015 to check if the concerned government agencies and the private sector are implementing all required actions.
A new marine fisheries management policy is being designed to regulate fishing capacity and conserve marine resources. A new legal framework is being drafted to clarify the rules for preventing IUU fishing in compliance with international standards.
Finally, monitoring, control and surveillance measures have been improved by equipping the overseas Thai fleet with vessel monitoring systems and port-in/port-out measures to control the activities of Thai flagged vessels in domestic waters and further afield.
Thailand is also working to improve its traceability scheme to ensure no IUU fish is imported and processed in Thailand.
However, this requires close cooperation with the industry and other countries.
I am proud of the progress we have achieved but I also recognise that there is more to do.
The next few months are crucial for our fight against illegal fishing, but our work will go on well into the future.
The reforms affect millions of people, thousands of businesses and almost our entire coastline – and we will take the time needed to do this properly. We will continue our constructive dialogue with the EU to address these challenges.
We are committed to continuing our work with the EU and other international partners to fight against IUU fishing, not just in the coming months but over the coming years, to make the Thai fisheries sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
I am sure that together we will succeed.