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Thai industry remains ready to work with EU in IUU fight

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA) remains ready to cooperate "wholeheartedly" with the EU when it comes to fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to its president, Chanintr Chalisarapong.

Thailand would work with regional fisheries management organizations and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture to meet standards set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said.

Last year, the EU extended its ‘yellow card’ warning to Thailand over perceived abuses in its fishing industry. It first issued the yellow card in 2015, with the threat that without immediate improvements in efforts to fight IUU a red card – meaning a total import ban on seafood goods to the EU – would be forthcoming.
The yellow card warning on Thailand should be lifted if the progress that the Thai industry has made to combat IUU and human trafficking is recognized, Chalisarapong told Undercurrent News.

"They should upgrade our status," he said.

TTIA -- which represents 90% of total Thai tuna exports, at an overall revenue of THB 800 billion ($23bn) a year on average -- and the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA), which comprises of 196 members with some THB 100bn in turnover, held a joint press conference at Thaifex on May 31 to highlight their commitment to fighting against IUU and human trafficking.
The two associations have worked closely with concerned parties such as the government, NGOs and other international organizations to eradicate human trafficking and child and forced labor in the tuna fishing and manufacturing industry, they said.

Panisuan Jamnarnwej -- TFFA's president and chairman of the committee on food and fishery industries at the Thai chamber of commerce -- told Undercurrent that "we have no estimations on the timetable" but that "we are going in the right direction".

"It might take another few years but it will come," Jamnarnwej said, adding that "as long as our customers understand what we are doing, it's not going to be a problem", because "they can communicate with the EU better than us".

In June 2016 Thailand was upgraded to the Tier 2 “Watch List” in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report. Then-TFFA president, Poj Aramwattananont, argued his country should have been upgraded in 2015, after progress was made on this front.

Thai Union Group has been among those working to improve matters in Thailand, most recently launching a pilot program to test scalable platforms for electronic catch data and traceability systems, utilizing mobile applications and satellite connectivity.

NGO Greenpeace read this as Thai Union coming under increasing pressure to eliminate risks of human rights abuses and IUU from two major US pet food companies.
Mars and Nestle, supplied by Thai Union, pledged to clean up their pet food supply chains in a release issued by Greenpeace. With this came a commitment to act on transshipping at sea, increasing the need for suppliers to eliminate outstanding risks of human rights abuses and IUU fishing in its supply chains.

Meanwhile, some Thai processors noted that prices for some sea-fished species had increased 20-30% because of the fight against illegal fishing; particularly loligo squid, cuttlefish and ribbon fish.

Ribbon fish prices rose to $3-4 per kilogram, up from $2-2.5/kg, while loligo squid prices rose to $5-5.50/kg from $4-4.30/kg.

Prices of crab sticks sourced in Thailand also increased to around $3/kg, up from $2.8/kg, one mid-sized Thai surimi producer noted.

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