Since the commencement of Thailand’s fisheries reform in 2015, the Royal Thai Government has put tremendous effort in managing its fishing fleet of more than 50,000 vessels. During 2015 to 2017, the Marine Department, the Department of Fisheries, and the Command Center for Combatting Illegal Fishing (CCCIF) have set up an inter-agency task force to conduct three rounds of fleet inspection for all sizes and types of fishing vessels, in order to gather accurate and precise data. During the inspection, the vessels were measured against the registered record, fishing gears were compared against the fishing license, and installation of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) was verified to ensure no tampering occurred. At the same time, the vessels were marked with unique identification numbers, and had their photos taken for a record. All of the gathered information was then recorded onto an electronic database for future reference and data search. This system is accessible to all relevant agencies, thus rendering ease of information exchange as well as increasing the effectiveness to the fleet management.
At present, Thailand’s fleet structure includes (1) 11,026 commercial fishing vessels in Thai waters, at the size of 10 GT and above, including 3,300 between-30-to-60 GT vessels and 2,800 above-60 GT vessels, and (2) 27,930 artisanal fishing vessels, both groups totaling 38,956 vessels. Compared with the number of 50,023 vessels in 2015, the fishing vessels in these two groups went down 22 percent. The (3) group comprises 15 overseas vessels, which are reduced from 76 vessels in 2015.
Around 6,000 30 TG-and-above vessels are legally required to install VMS which is monitored by the Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC). Since 1 February 2018, 13 police officers were deployed to work full-time at the FMC to monitoring any illegal fishing.
Currently, the Marine Department’s fleet inspection is ongoing, with particular focus on the vessels reportedly sunk, damaged, destroyed, detained or sold to overseas, or altered to non-fishing purpose. The Thai authorities have traced back to vessels owners’ houses as well as have sought cooperation from other countries in verifying the status of these vessels. The Royal Thai Government will keep up our work to find out if these vessels still exist and where they are located to make sure that they will not be able to conduct any illegal fishing.
In addition to the fishing vessels inspection, Thailand has also inspected other types of support vessels such as fisheries transshipment vessels, reefers, oil tankers and fresh water tankers for fisheries. These vessels are required to legally register with the Department of Fisheries. During the inspection, if any of the fishing vessels is found with revoked vessel registration and without fishing license, or any support vessel without legal registration, they will be locked, painted, and marked, as well as recorded in the fleet database for their location and subjected to periodical inspections. To date there are 1,160 vessels being locked.
As part of the fleet reduction effort, the Thai authorities are undertaking measures to reduce the number of fishing vessels from the total fleet through license combination scheme, vessel replacement scheme, buy-back scheme, as well as entry-exit scheme. Vessels that remain thereafter will be demolished to ensure that they will not return to the system permanently.
Moreover, the Marine Department is in the process of amending two relevant laws, namely the Thai Vessel Act and the Navigation in Thai Waters Act, to be in line with the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558. The amendment aims (1) to improve fishing vessels’ condition and safety to meet international standards, (2) to develop an electronic port state measures to control the port-in port-out of vessels, namely the National Single Window (NSW), which is accessible to the Customs Department, the Marine Department, and the Fisheries Department, thereby providing more effective control of vessels in Thai waters, and (3) to better control and monitor all seafarers working in fishing vessels by developing control measures and registration of all seafarers in order to monitor their working conditions as well as their employment status to be in line with the international standards.