Cli­mate change ‘threat­ens’ fight against il­le­gal fish­ing

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Cli­mate change threat­ens to un­der­mine Thai­land’s ef­forts to com­bat il­le­gal fish­ing and avoid a po­ten­tial Euro­pean Union ban on ex­ports by the multi-bil­lion dol­lar seafood in­dus­try, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups say. They warn that cli­mate change is slow­ing the re­cov­ery of fish stocks in tra­di­tional fish­ing grounds, prompt­ing boats to ven­ture out­side Thai wa­ters in search of fish. “Over­fish­ing plays a major role in the dec­i­ma­tion of the fish stock in the Gulf of Thai­land and the An­daman Sea, but cli­mate change is just as big a threat,” said Suchana Cha­vanich, a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity.

“Warmer oceans mean that fish don’t grow to their full length. Coral bleach­ing caused by cli­mate change means fish nurs­eries and their food sources are also un­der threat,” Suchana said. Thai­land’s fish stocks peaked in 2006 at 856,212 tons of fish caught in the Gulf of Thai­land, ac­cord­ing to One Shared Ocean, a group that mon­i­tors ma­rine is­sues. Four years later it was down to 617,568 tons, the last year for which the group has data. The EU is­sued a “yel­low card” to Thai­land in April 2015, warn­ing the coun­try should clean up its poorly reg­u­lated fish­ing in­dus­try or face a ban on seafood ex­ports.

Thai­land is the world’s third-largest seafood ex­porter, ship­ping $7 bil­lion worth of fish and seafood prod­ucts in 2013, ac­cord­ing to fish­eries depart­ment data. Ex­ports to the EU were 481 mil­lion eu­ros ($511 mil­lion) last year, EU fig­ures show. Since the EU “yel­low card”, the Thai gov­ern­ment said it has reg­is­tered most of its fish­ing fleet and banned ships fit­ted with push nets and bot­tom trawl­ing equip­ment from go­ing to sea. As a re­sult, more than 3,500 fish­ing boats have been un­able to leave port for at least a year, ac­cord­ing to the Thai Over­seas Fish­eries As­so­ci­a­tion. Ear­lier this month, the last of 48 boats seized dur­ing op­er­a­tions against il­le­gal fish­ing were sunk off the Thai coast in an ef­fort to cre­ate ar­ti­fi­cial coral reefs for tourism.

The EU said it is work­ing with Thai­land on im­ple­ment­ing an ac­tion plan and no dead­line has been set for a de­ci­sion. “The di­a­logue with the Thai author­i­ties is on­go­ing,” En­rico Brivio, spokesper­son for En­vi­ron­ment, Mar­itime and Fish­eries, said in an emailed state­ment. While the gov­ern­ment has sought to avoid an EU ban, it has not done enough to ad­dress the ef­fects of cli­mate change on ma­rine aqua­cul­ture, said An­chalee Pi­pat­tanawat­tanakul, an ocean re­searcher at Green­peace South­east Asia. “Any re­cov­ery made by fish stocks from the gov­ern­ment’s new il­le­gal fish­ing ini­tia­tives are threat­ened in the long term by warm­ing oceans,” An­chalee said.

Of­fi­cials at the Depart­ment of Fish­eries said cli­mate change was an is­sue for the cab­i­net and par­lia­ment to ad­dress. Mean­while, the fish­ing in­dus­try is skep­ti­cal about the gov­ern­ment’s as­sur­ances that the mea­sures it has in­tro­duced to com­bat il­le­gal fish­ing will lead to a re­cov­ery in fish stocks. More than 300,000 peo­ple are em­ployed in Thai­land’s seafood sec­tor, many of them mi­grant work­ers from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. “A lot of the fish­er­men have come to me for ad­vice about chang­ing in­dus­tries and what other things they can do,” said Ab­hisit Techani­ti­sawad, Pres­i­dent of the Thai Over­seas Fish­eries As­so­ci­a­tion. “They just don’t see their long term fu­ture within this in­dus­try.” — Reuters

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