EU team visits Thailand to assess fishing industry cleanup

Migrant workers cutting fish during a police inspection at the pier of Songkhla, south Thailand on Dec 23, 2015.
Migrant workers cutting fish during a police inspection at the pier of Songkhla, south Thailand on Dec 23, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - A European Union delegation that is visiting Thailand to weigh its progress in battling illegal and unregulated fishing will not make a decision this week on whether to ban Thai seafood products, the government said on Tuesday (Jan 19).

Thailand, the world's third-largest exporter of seafood, faces the risk of the ban after the EU gave it a "yellow card" in April for failing to clamp down on problems in its fishing industry.

An EU dialogue mission to assess progress is set for Thursday (Jan 21) and Friday (Jan 22) but a technical team has already arrived, the government said.

The team is monitoring Thailand's progress after it set up a centre last year to combat illegal fishing, said Vice Admiral Jumpol Lumpiganon, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Navy.

"Once they are satisfied they will go back and make a decision," he said, adding that there was no timeframe for the decision. The technical team would conduct random checks until the rest of the EU officials arrived on Wednesday (Jan 20) , he said.

Last week the government said Thailand had completed "70 per cent of the task" set out by the EU, after having registered most of its fishing vessels and caught groups suspected of human trafficking in the fishing sector.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said Thailand had introduced new laws to avert an EU ban. "There has been huge progress, because we have solved many problems in terms of the law, and its application," he told reporters. "Whether they are satisfied or not we will have to see, we've done our utmost."

The EU declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of meetings between its officials and the Thai authorities.