Thailand urged to take further steps to eradicate fishing pirates and slavery
On 9th April 2016 and following an invitation from the Royal Thai Government (RTG), Executive Director Steve Trent and a team from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) met with Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and other senior government representatives in Bangkok to discuss the current efforts against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the associated human rights abuses and human trafficking in the Thai seafood sector.
EJF welcomes the commitment shown by the RTG to address these issues and acknowledges that some significant progress has been achieved so far, particularly in the reform of Thailand’s fisheries laws. For instance, a Vessel Monitoring System has been created that has strong potential to track Thai fishing vessels and port inspections have been implemented on vessels leaving and entering Thai ports.
However, key improvements are needed in the breadth, effectiveness and uniform application of these and other fishery controls, and EJF presented Thai officials with a series of recommendations setting these out. Thailand has also been strongly encouraged to complete the ratification and implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement, an international treaty designed to stop IUU fish entering ports and gaining access to markets.
In order to adequately address the human trafficking, forced, bonded and slave labour situation, additional legislative measures are required. EJF recommended that the RTG takes steps for the near-term signing and ratification of ILO Convention C188 to improve labour conditions on Thai vessels, as well as Conventions C87 and C98, which would enable the largely migrant workforce on Thai vessels freedom of association and collective bargaining. EJF also recommended an urgent investment in translation and language capabilities of Thai officials responsible for investigating labor abuses, as part of a broader move to a victim-centered approach to these investigations.
While several steps and reforms have been introduced, wider and more structural measures are required to guarantee that the ongoing issues and remaining gaps can be sustainably resolved. EJF will continue to urge the RTG to build on their early steps to ensure that IUU and the associated human rights abuses and human trafficking can be effectively addressed.
EJF has produced extensive documentation of the human rights issues in Thailand’s fisheries and its most recent report Thailand’s Seafood Slaves highlighted how forced, bonded, trafficked and slave labour remains an integral part of Thailand’s seafood industry. The EU issued Thailand a yellow card for its insufficient measures to address IUU fishing and is in the process of reviewing the carding status.