BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has given Thailand six months to drastically crack down on illegal and unregulated fishing or face an EU seafood import ban, but has lifted the threat of similar action against South Korea and the Philippines.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said Tuesday that Thailand, the third-largest seafood exporter, was given a warning — a "yellow card" — to improve its fisheries practices. Despite previous warnings, the Thai authorities have "no controls whatsoever," Vella said.
The Thai government said it was a "source of grave discouragement that the EU chose to ignore the very earnest efforts of the past six months." However, the government said, it was "now firmly seizing the issue. It matches words with deeds."
Thailand is a major exporter of seafood, with yearly revenues of almost 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion), and an EU ban — a "red card" — would seriously affect the industry. Annual exports to the EU are estimated to be worth between 575 million and 730 million euros.
Now, the EU hopes it can start cooperating with Thailand to improve its practices by closing the practical and legal loopholes that the illegal fishing industry now exploits.
South Korea and the Philippines had faced similar threats of bans but Vella rewarded them for cooperating.
Environmental groups welcomed Tuesday's moves.
"Yellow-carding has been shown to be a strong incentive for states to combat illegal fishing. Commissioner Vella has shown global leadership in implementing the EU's tough illegal fishing regulation against such a significant fishing state," said Tony Long of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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