Thai parliament approves looser fisheries rules in first reading

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 5:59 AM

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s parliament voted unanimously on Thursday to loosen regulations on the fisheries industry, responding to concerns from its multibillion dollar seafood sector that the current rules are too tough.

Lawmakers approved eight draft fishery bills in the first reading in a 416-0 vote to amend regulations that were introduced in 2015 as part of the country’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

A parliamentary committee will study the eight drafts and propose a new draft that must pass a second and third reading and approval from the Senate before becoming law.

Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest seafood exporter with an annual exports estimated to be worth 200 billion baht ($5.59 billion) according to government data.

It cracked down on the industry after the European Union threatened to ban Thai seafood exports while the United States scrutinised the country’s fishing industry for slavery, trafficking and labour abuses on fishing boats and at onshore processing facilities.

Thailand changed its regulations to match international standards and improve its management, monitoring and inspection system, and in 2019 ratified an international convention that sets binding rules and standards for conditions on fishing vessels.

Many Thai fishermen have complained the changes were too sudden for them to adjust and have pressured the government to change the regulations.

Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao said the government’s draft bill, among the eight that parliament has approved, aims to urgently address those concerns.

Opposition lawmaker Pita Limjaroenrat said the changed fisheries law must also taken into account Thailand’s international legal obligations while allowing time and compensation for fishermen to adjust to the changes.

Ninety civil society groups last year submitted an open letter to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin last year, asking him not to roll back the reforms Thailand has made in the sector.

($1 = 35.8000 baht)

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Frances Kerry)