Small fishermen struggle to survive

11 August 2015
Small fishermen struggle to survive
Fishing boats are docked after fishing operations stopped at a port in Samut Sakhon province, Thailand, 01 July 2015. Photo: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

Small fishermen say they are in deep trouble after the government stepped up efforts to clamp down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing to meet European import requirements.
Some of them are so desperate they are seeking to appeal to His Majesty the King.
Vichai Thongkam, 61, and his eldest son Chatchai, 41, removed their nets from the family-owned Rung ArunSamut shrimp trawler on Saturday after they had not been able to fish since July 1.
Trawlers are a type of banned vessels so the family could not apply for a permit.
The family has to give up the profession it has taken up for generations for fear of facing trials and fines to the tune of hundreds of thousands of baht.
"We live on our savings today. All fishermen in Ban Laem Hin also meet the same fate," they said.
"We're waiting for the reply from the several groups of fishermen who submitted letters to the Thailand Fishermen's Association.
"We're now left with no choice but to appeal to His Majesty the King. We don't know what to do for a living. Having fishermen work on land will starve them to death. It's the same as trying to get farmers to catch fish," Mr Vichai said.
His son Chatchai added they were the family of eight and he had two children to support. One is studying for a bachelor's degree and the other at a vocational school.
"The government wants to cut down on the number of fishing boats, especially illegal ones but it needs to look into the facts. A family with more than one boat can afford to have only one. But our family can't live if we lose it."
Junta chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order late on Thursday banning the use and possession of push nets installed on motor boats, dip nets, surrounding nets with eyes smaller than 2.5cm, collapsible traps and trawl nets with eyes smaller than 5cm at the bottom, as well as similar tools.
Violators will see their tools seized and destroyed and face a jail term of not more than five years or a fine from 100,000 to 500,000 baht.
Farm minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya said later as a result of the order 21,000 of the 42,000 boats registered with the Marine Department could go fishing. Unregistered boats and those with illegal tools had to dock.
"The government will help those with tools outlawed by the order so they can continue to fish. If they no longer wish to take up the profession, there will be measures to help them," he said.