Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing in #OurOcean

Posted by Richard Hall
February 10, 2016
Fishing boat at sunset in the Port of Samut Sakhon, Thailand. [NOAA]

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major worldwide problem that results in the illegal harvests of millions of metric tons and billions in lost revenue for those fishermen and women who follow the rules. IUU fishing threatens to push already stressed fishing stocks to the point of collapse. Given the scope of this global challenge, I was excited to recently spend three months in Thailand as part of an Embassy Science Fellowship at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok with the goal of collaborating with the Thailand Department of Fisheries on combating IUU fishing.

A group of fishermen and women sorting a catch of short-tail mackerel in the Port of Samut Sakhon, Thailand. [NOAA]

The government of Thailand is in the process of addressing significant international concerns over IUU in its fisheries by changing its fisheries management strategy from one of open-access to one that has managed access, which requires considerable regulation and oversight.  Fisheries management is predicated on the concept of providing for the maximum harvest of fish stocks while at the same time ensuring the long-term viability of the stock. This process of change is a major undertaking, especially in a country such as Thailand, with tens of thousands of vessels, hundreds of commercial species and dozens of gear types. The efforts by the Thai government, if effectively implemented, could provide oversight of the fishing industry in a country that is among the world’s leaders in fishery products exports. These efforts could also serve as a model for other countries in the region.  

Embassy Science Fellow Richard Hall meeting with members of the Thai Department of Fisheries. [NOAA]

During my three-month fellowship where I was hosted at the Thailand Department of Fisheries’ main offices on the campus of Kasetsart University in Bangkok, I witnessed how the staff I worked with on a day-to-day basis was determined to address the issues in the country’s fisheries. Before I arrived, they had already made significant strides, having prepared several regulatory and management plans.  However, the task of implementing the changes required within these plans will be daunting. I hope to be able to continue my collaboration with the Thai government and help them to work through the changes in their fisheries. It is clear the changes they are making to Thailand’s fishing industry could not only help curb illegal fishing, but they could also help to ensure that safer, legal products are finding their way to the markets in many countries around the world.

About the Author: Richard Hall is a Fishery Management Specialist with NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Islands Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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