Thai Navy shows off tech­nol­ogy to fight fish­ing abuses

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SAMUT SAKHON, Thai­land:

Thai­land’s navy yes­ter­day showed off new tech­nol­ogy to mon­i­tor fish­ing boats in a re­newed effort to crack down on il­le­gal fish­ing, forced la­bor and cor­rup­tion in the seafood in­dus­try. New equip­ment the navy has been test­ing in­cludes a GPS track­ing sys­tem to mon­i­tor fish­ing ves­sels, a cen­tral data­base and a scan­ner for of­fi­cials to check doc­u­ments.

The sys­tem, demon­strated to re­porters, won’t fully be in place un­til April, but out­side groups are al­ready skep­ti­cal it will achieve what it’s set out to do un­less more hu­man en­force­ment is put into place. Thai­land has been un­der pres­sure from the Euro­pean Union af­ter rev­e­la­tions that it re­lied heav­ily on forced la­bor, and is fac­ing a po­ten­tial to­tal EU ban on seafood im­ports un­less it re­forms its fish­ing in­dus­try.

“We’re do­ing this to in­crease the ef­fec­tive­ness of in­spec­tion, be­cause putting hu­mans in the loop has caused some er­rors in the past,” said Cdr. Piyanan Kaew­ma­nee, head of a Thai navy group that over­sees il­le­gal fish­ing, who pointed to cor­rupt of­fi­cials as a ma­jor is­sue. “We can en­sure that our work­ers are ac­counted for, and aren’t lost at sea or trans­ferred from ship to ship.”

New on Fri­day was a hand­held scan­ner that can read crew iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and other pa­pers to make sure work­ers are doc­u­mented and the fish­ing gear is li­censed. Dur­ing the in­spec­tion demon­stra­tion, work­ers crouched and hud­dled to­gether, hold­ing up green iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards, as Thai navy sailors boarded their ship, looked through doc­u­ments, and pat­ted down work­ers.

The scan­ners will be in­te­grated into a ves­sel mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem which will keep track of the lo­ca­tion of all Thai fish­ing ves­sels us­ing GPS tech­nol­ogy and a cen­tral data­base.

The mon­i­tor­ing im­prove­ments fol­low in­ter­na­tional pres­sure af­ter an As­so­ci­ated Press re­port last year re­vealed that Thai boats were us­ing slaves from coun­tries in­clud­ing Myan­mar, Cam­bo­dia, and Laos to catch fish, putting a spot­light on il­le­gal prac­tices in the in­dus­try in­clud­ing un­reg­is­tered boats and un­sus­tain­able fish­ing.

In April 2015, the Euro­pean Union gave Thai­land a “yel­low card” on its fish­ing ex­ports, warn­ing the coun­try that it could face a to­tal ban if it didn’t clean up its act - prompt­ing Thai Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha to ex­er­cise ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to cre­ate a Command Cen­ter for Com­bat­ing Il­le­gal Fish­ing soon af­ter.

In­de­pen­dent ob­servers cau­tiously wel­comed the new equip­ment, but said Thai­land must go be­yond tech­nol­ogy to en­sure its seafood is caught with­out forced la­bor.

“To put more mus­cle into en­force­ment of Thai la­bor law, you’ve got to en­gage di­rectly with work­ers,” said Ja­son Judd, se­nior tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer at the In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fice in Bangkok. “Tech­nol­ogy can help us to de­velop that, but re­ally it’s not a sub­sti­tute for what’s needed most, which is a face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion be­tween those who are re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing the law - the Thai gov­ern­ment - and the fish­er­men.”

Thai­land re­cently lifted a ban on hir­ing for­eign na­tion­als for its in­spec­tion crews, paving the way for Cam­bo­dian and Myan­mar trans­la­tors to in­ter­pret be­tween Thai po­lice and mi­grant fish­ing work­ers. But the trans­la­tors will only in­ter­view work­ers if a ves­sel is ex­plic­itly flagged for abuse or wrong­do­ing, Thai navy of­fi­cials said. EU of­fi­cials will visit Thai­land next month to see what progress the gov­ern­ment has made, fol­low­ing up on a visit in Jan­uary this year. —AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.