BANGKOK • The European Union has warned Thailand that it is still not doing enough to stamp out illegal fishing practices, the country's defence minister said yesterday, raising the prospects of a trade ban.
Thailand, the world's third-largest seafood exporter, was given six months by the EU in April to address issues such as ensuring all fishing vessels are registered, have registered equipment and are fitted with a Vessel Monitoring System.
"The EU sent a letter saying our actions were still not correct, both in terms of administration and legislation," Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday.
General Prawit said 3,000 fishing boats nationwide were still unregistered. The Thai government's efforts to tighten regulations last month prompted many of the country's fishermen to stop work in protest against the new rules.
Thailand's annual exports to the EU are estimated to be worth between €575 million (S$855 million) and €730 million. Overall fish exports were worth around US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion) in 2014, says the Thai Frozen Food Association.
The EU ultimatum came even though most of the catch landed by Thai fishermen is not destined for the EU, which issued the threat as part of its larger attempt to crack down on all illegal, unreported and unregulated incidents worldwide, reported The Nation.
However, a ban would unfairly affect an industry that profits little or not at all from illegal fishing as most Thai exports to the EU are farmed prawns or processed fish, which have little to do with the fishing boat sector, said the Agriculture Ministry's department of fisheries deputy director, Mr Waraporn Prompoj.
For Bangkok, it is the latest in a series of headaches concerning the country's troubled fishing industry, already accused of using migrants as slave labour.
The government is also under increasing pressure from groups such as the Shrimp Association to crack down on illegal fishing because their industries would suffer from a ban.
REUTERS, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK