New waterway regulations bridle basket farmers
Some basket fish farmers in Nakhon Sawan have been forced to close shop after an amendment to a law regulating Thai waters required them to secure a permit and pay significantly higher fees.
The amendment to the Navigation in Thai Waters Act took effect on Feb 23. It is designed to regulate structures which intrude on waterways, seas and beaches.
The law requires those who employ such structures to report them and seek permission from the Marine Department within 120 days, or by June 22. Those who fail to do so could face a jail term of up to three years or a fine of between 1,000-20,000 baht per square metre of the structures.
The amended law also sets the new annual fee for making use of the waterways at 1,000-20,000 baht per square metre. The previous rates were 500 baht per square metre for ordinary use and 1,000 for commercial purposes.
In Muang district, Nakhon Sawan, three major basket fish farmers who had been operating for more than 15 years opted to stop following the amended law.
All the fish farmers said they could face operating losses due to the amended legislation, adding it would be pointless to continue running their businesses.
One of them, Malee Makboon, said she had previously never had to pay fines or fees for using fish baskets.
Ms Malee said she was startled by the new regulation, saying it did not reflect the reality on the ground and had caused a great deal of trouble for farmers.
“Don’t think that raising basket fish generates a huge amount of income every time,” said Ms Malee. “The profits are not substantial and while farming there are problems with water quality, among other things,” she said.
Ms Malee added basket fish farmers at times faced deep losses as fish died en masse.
She said that she has 100 fish baskets. Each basket is three metres wide and six metres long. She said she may be forced to pay a fee of up to 900,000 baht per year, which does not reflect the income generated from her enterprise. Ms Malee said the rule should only be applied to floating houses, restaurants and transport vehicles.
The department chief Sonsak Saensombat said the law has been in place since 2015, but had been amended to be more stringent.