Ma­jor change for Thai seafood in­dus­try

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - TARA BUAKAM­SRI news­room@mm­times.com

THAI­LAND is on the brink of mak­ing real progress to­ward the elim­i­na­tion of de­struc­tive fish­ing and hu­man rights abuses in its seafood sup­ply chains. As a po­ten­tial yel­low card de-list­ing from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion looms, it re­mains to be seen whether the coun­try will take the steps needed to fully meet the stan­dards to elim­i­nate hu­man rights abuse in the seafood in­dus­try.

It’s fair to say that Thai au­thor­i­ties have made progress in key ar­eas, in­clud­ing re­forms to the le­gal and reg­u­la­tory frame­work for fish­ing that was drawn up in 1947, along with im­prove­ments to and the en­force­ment of labour reg­u­la­tions. At the UN Ocean Con­fer­ence in New York this year, Thai del­e­gates an­nounced a vol­un­tary com­mit­ment to com­bat illegal, un­re­ported, and un­reg­u­lated (IUU) fish­ing by rig­or­ously con­trol­ling, mon­i­tor­ing, and in­spect­ing all Thai-flagged fish­ing ves­sels op­er­at­ing in­side and out­side Thai wa­ters. A key piece of this com­mit­ment is to elim­i­nate all IUU fish­ing in Thai fish­ing fleets by 2019.

Un­der­stand­ably, this progress has been met with crit­i­cism, seen by some as in­suf­fi­cient and cos­metic.

The key ques­tion is whether these re­forms will help Thai­land to re­move the worst of­fend­ers from the water and re­sult in a net pos­i­tive im­pact for oceans and peo­ple, re­liev­ing some of the en­vi­ron­men­tal pres­sure from over­fish­ing and de­struc­tive fish­ing that helps to drive forced labour and illegal fish­ing. Prod­uct trace­abil­ity and trans­parency in pro­cure­ment are also vi­tal to com­bat­ing seafood fraud and the laun­der­ing of fish caught through IUU fish­ing and forced labour.

Gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions can only be ef­fec­tive if the in­dus­try ac­tu­ally gets on board and heeds the call to re­duce the im­pact of its op­er­a­tions on ocean life, sup­port fish­eries and aqua­cul­ture op­er­a­tions work­ing to be part of the so­lu­tion, and elim­i­nate, once and for all, de­plorable prac­tices from its sup­ply chains.

Fol­low­ing a global Green­peace cam­paign and ex­ten­sive di­a­logue, the world’s largest tuna com­pany – Thai Union – re­cently agreed to a com­pre­hen­sive set of re­forms to help trans­form its sup­ply chains. In do­ing so, the com­pany also sent a strong sig­nal to the broader tuna sec­tor and seafood in­dus­try that the de­struc­tive and so­cially ir­re­spon­si­ble sta­tus quo must come to an end. If Thai Union acts on its com­mit­ments, by 2020, work­ers will have con­tracts that com­ply with the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s 188 con­ven­tion – an em­ploy­ment con­tract in a language they can un­der­stand, and they’ll be able to re­port if that con­tract is breached at sea or in port.

The Thai seafood in­dus­try needs changes be­yond Thai Union’s pos­i­tive steps. All pro­gres­sive com­pa­nies must seek and cham­pion so­lu­tions to the prob­lems that have long rid­dled this in­dus­try.

There are other seafood giants in Thai­land and around the globe whose busi­nesses dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pact our ocean ecosys­tems, and con­tinue to profit off labour abuse. The sheer vol­ume of marine life that moves through the sup­ply chains of these com­pa­nies and the nu­mer­ous peo­ple who bring that seafood to con­sumers war­rant com­pre­hen­sive and strong pro­cure­ment poli­cies that help re­duce the eco­log­i­cal im­pact, en­sure the health of fish pop­u­la­tions, safe­guard vul­ner­a­ble species and habi­tats, and re­spect labour and hu­man rights.

Yel­low cards from the EU have proven to be strong in­cen­tives for other coun­tries to com­bat illegal fish­ing. It must trans­late to mean­ing­ful ac­tion for Thai­land as well. Pri­vate, pub­lic and third-party stake­hold­ers, both in­side and out­side of the coun­try, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to work to­gether to en­sure that only sus­tain­ably and eth­i­cally pro­duced Thai seafood reaches shelves, sushi bars, and cat bowls around the world. – Bangkok Post

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