Thailand working with ILO and EU on fishing project

fishermen

In another step towards cleaning up its fishing and seafood industries, Thailand signed an agreement last week with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the European Union for a joint project at improving working conditions and respect for rights in those industries.

In addition, Thai seafood exporters have begun asking fishing vessels and suppliers from Myanmar to provide catch certificates indicating where their fish were caught as the Kingdom continues to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and ensure its seafood supply chains are free of abuse and violations.

412300508“I believe that to solve these problems, success can only be achieved through cooperation,’’ Thailand’s Minister of Labor Sirichai Ditthakul, said at the signing ceremony in Bangkok with the ILO and the E.U.

“This project marks closer cooperation and constructive engagement between the Royal Thai Government, Thai workers’ and employers’ organizations, the private sector and civil society organizations in working together,’’ he added.

The ILO and the E.U. will fund the 42-month project entitled Combatting Unacceptable Forms of Work in the Thai Fishing and Seafood Industry. The project aims to address working conditions that deny fundamental principles and rights at work in the Thai fishing and seafood industries.

Thailand has been under fire from the E.U. and some importers in the United States over revelations and allegations that its fishing and seafood industries are plagued by human trafficking, forced labor and other labor abuse, and environmental destruction through illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Since receiving a warning from the E.U. last year, the Thai government has begun implementing a wide-ranging program of reforms aimed at eliminating IUU fishing, trafficking and labor problems.

“A range of mutually reinforcing methods will be utilized to tackle unacceptable forms of work, especially forced labor and child labor, and to reduce and prevent the exploitation of workers, many of whom are migrant and in certain cases exposed to trafficking risks,” the ILO said in a press release.

“These include enhancing Thailand’s legal and regulatory framework in line with international labor standards, strengthening effective law enforcement on land and at sea, improving compliance through voluntary private sector initiatives, working with buyers in Europe, North America and Oceania as well as empowering workers and increasing their access to support services,” the ILO added.

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One important measure the Thai government is in the early stages of developing is a catch certification system to ensure buyers overseas that Thai seafood exports were sourced from legal fishing areas.

That requirement is having a ripple effect of improving standards among its neighbors, as Myanmar papers reported last week that Thai seafood companies have begun asking Myanmar suppliers and fishing vessels they buy from in Myanmar to certify their catches.

“Actually it would be very good for Myanmar if the E.U. restricted Thailand’s fishery products. The problem is, Myanmar’s market is highly dependent on Thailand,” said Sein Thaung, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries in Myanmar’s Myeik district.

If the certification process does not run smoothly it could leave more than 1,000 fishing and carrier vessels in Myeik district out of work, said another Myanmar official.

Photo from www.ilo.org