Thailand Leads Asia to Ratify Work in Fishing Convention

Credit: EJF
Credit: EJF

Published Dec 2, 2018 4:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

Thailand is set to become the first country in Asia to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention C188, which sets basic standards for work in the fishing industry. Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly voted last week to ratify the convention, and without further opposition it should be in place January next year.

Thailand’s fishing fleet has, in recent decades, been the scene of slavery, brutal physical abuse, human trafficking and even murder of vulnerable migrant workers. Failure to act against these criminal operators led to global notoriety for Thailand’s seafood sector.

By setting international standards for decent work in the fishing industry, the International Labour Organisation’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188) is designed to eradicate these practices.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has been advising the Thai government on the issues since 2013, applauded the progress and urged Thailand to keep up the momentum for reform, to protect fishers and Thailand’s international reputation. The EJF alleges that industry representatives such as the National Fisheries Association of Thailand have been using aggressive and disruptive tactics to derail legislative reforms in a bid to avoid the regulation. 

Thailand has a fleet of approximately 11,000 commercial fishing vessels, and there are an estimated 4.5 million migrant workers in Thailand with 222,000 workers in the seafood processing sector and approximately 129,000 workers on board fishing vessels. These workers represent a significant portion of Thailand’s workforce and are operating in one of the most dangerous professions in the world yet are still not granted the same rights as Thai domestic workers.

Thai seafood exports of 1.4 million tons in 2016 were worth $5.8 billion. Catch per unit effort – a measure of how productive or depleted a fishery is – dropped by 94 percent in the Gulf of Thailand between 1961 and 2016 and by 69 percent in the Andaman Sea between 1966 and 2016.
In 2019, Thailand will become chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), providing a unique opportunity to demonstrate further leadership in the region, encouraging neighboring countries to follow suit.