ASEAN nations agree to cooperate against IUU fishing

Thailand yesterday hosted an ASEAN--SEAFDEC regional cooperation forum as part of an effort to boost multi-lateral cooperation with other Southern Asian countries and to come up with a joint declaration to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and enhance the competitiveness of sustainable fishing in the region.

This move is intended to increase ASEAN's fish and seafood product competitiveness in compliance with international standards and regulations to ensure sustainable food security of the region.

The joint declaration approved in this meeting is the first one of its kind and its deemed as an important step, as it is the first time Southern Asian countries recognise that IUU fishing is an issue and that regional cooperation must be part of the struggle against it.

The forum was officiated by Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and was attended by over 100 delegates from ASEANcountries, comprising Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR,Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, officials of ASEAN, SEAFDEC as well as representatives from relevant international/regional organizations.

"Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated or IUU fishing is considered as serious threat to the sustainability of fishery resources and marine environment, and is under serious concern of several countries including the ASEAN," said Dr. Prayurasiddhi.

The secretary added that Thailand has always joined hands with Southeast Asian countries and others in taking part to develop policy frameworks for combating IUU fishing.

He also recognised it is a complicated task, considering the nature of fishery resources that are shared by several countries, labour-related issues and the fact that products are being intra-regionally traded prior to exportation.

Prayurasiddhi stressed that these problems could not be addressed by countries individually, but require cooperation among concerned agencies and with regional collaboration to enhance the effectiveness in combating of IUU fishing.

In his viewpoint, to succeed in this mission it is essential to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) programs; enhance traceability of fish and fishery products from capture fisheries and aquaculture and manage fishing capacity.

Another aspect he considers must be taken into account is the importance of enhancing regional cooperation; addressing quality and safety requirements; addressing issues on labour in fisheries sector; and enhancing fishery resources to mitigate impacts from IUU fishing.

For his part, Dr. Adisorn Promthep, Director-General of the Department of Fisheries further explained on the reformation of Thai's fisheries policy with the new Royal Ordinance on Fisheries 2015 that corresponds with the current fishery situation and emerging international requirements, with the establishment of Marine Fisheries Management Plan to address problems related to overfishing capacity, by freezing the registration of new fishing vessels.

Promthep also highlighted that the fishing license regime was rectified by replacing the open-access to fisheries with limited-access, with application of the MSY system.

Other measures taken by Thai authorities he stressed were monitoring, control and surveillance system boost through the establishment of Port-in/Port- out controls; the development of the Catch Certificate Scheme to enhance the traceability of fish and fishery products, and the creation of a system to support the implementation of Port State Measures.

Furthermore, he stated that in early May, Thailand also submitted the Instrument of Accession to the Agreement on Port State Measures, which is one of the key international agreements aimed at combating IUU fishing.

He forecast that Thailand's accession to the PSMA will enhance control over foreign-flagged fishing vessels and prevent the entry of IUU fish and fishery products into the country.

Source: Fish Info & Services