Thailand says EU extends grace period to clean up illegal fishing

Reuters News
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Posted: May 23, 2016 4:14 AM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The European Union has given the world's third-largest seafood exporter Thailand another six months to end illegal fishing, said Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, over a year after Brussels threatened Bangkok with a trade ban.

Thailand's fishing industry employs more than 300,000 people, many of them migrant workers from neighboring countries who are often subject to ill-treatment.

The industry's reputation has been tarnished by instances of human trafficking to meet manpower demand, forced labor and violence.

The European Union gave Thailand a "yellow card" in April 2015 for failing to prevent illegal and unregulated fishing catch entering the supply chain and ending up in seafood exports to Europe. The warning required Thailand to clean up in six months or face a trade ban.

"Good news," Prawit told reporters on Monday. "We won't get the red card... They have delayed this because we have always cooperated."

The EU in Thailand declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of meetings between its officials and Thai authorities.

A Thai team went to Brussels to discuss progress last week. Since receiving the warning from the EU, Thailand has a instigated new license and monitoring systems for fishing vessels, the director general of the Thai Fisheries Department, Adisorn Promthep, told Reuters last week in Brussels.

Bangkok has also tightened regulations and imposed limitations on the catch, Adisorn said.

The EU yellow card had been a "wakeup call" to deal with an obsolete fisheries law, he added.

Authorities were also making more regular checks on vessels and demanded employers give workers written contracts, he said. That was to prevent labor abuses and human traffickers selling people on to boats, Adisorn said.

(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak in BANGKOK and Julia Fioretti in BRUSSELS; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Nick Macfie)