NGOs Support EU’s Warning of Trade Ban Against Thailand for Illegal Fishing

Press Release Date: April 21, 2015

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Thailand is the third-largest seafood exporter in the world, with exports valued at €7.8 billion in 2012. In 2013 the European Union (EU) imported €736 million worth of seafood from Thailand.

After months of bilateral discussions, Thailand has not sufficiently addressed its shortcomings in combating IUU fishing and is alleged not to be complying with international fisheries law. The yellow card represents an opportunity for Thailand to take more decisive action in the coming months and avoid a red card, which would ban  Thai seafood imports to the EU.

“Yellow-carding has been proved to be a strong incentive for states to combat illegal fishing. Commissioner Vella has shown global leadership in implementing the EU’s tough illegal fishing regulation against such a significant fishing state” said the coaltion members. “Thailand must now take positive action and work with the European Commission to be delisted.”

“Thai authorities exert very little control over their fishing vessels, with many activities illegally damaging fish stocks and the marine environment, and this is linked to some of the most exploitative and inhuman working conditions documented anywhere. These conditions include the use of slaves and extreme violence” said Steve Trent, Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Thailand recently adopted measures aimed at protecting workers in the fishing sector. The real challenge, however, will be to ensure the laws and regulations are enforced.

“It is time for the Thai government to take swift action to control the Thai fleet and end this environmental and human crisis” concluded Steve Trent.

In addition to the yellow carding of Thailand, the Commission has also lifted the threat of sanctions against (delisting) South Korea and the Philippines. This is only the second time the Commission has delisted any states, and is further evidence of the positive and motivating incentive for states to adopt measures to stop illegal fishing. Both states had previously been yellow carded, South Korea in November 2013 and the Philippines in June 2014.

Notes to Editors:

  • Thailand is the world’s second main producer of canned tuna. The EU imported more that €200 million worth of fishery products between 2011-2013 (EUROSTAT).
  • The five main EU member states to import fish products from Thailand are the UK, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands (EUROSTAT).
  • The trade figures provided in the text for Thai exports include aquaculture products, seafood processed in Thailand, and fish caught by Thai vessels. If a trade ban (red-card) were to be finally imposed, the sanctions would only impact the latter
  • Thailand was EU’s 5th biggest seafood trade partner in 2011 with the trade value reaching Euro 890.5 million (Eurostat, March 2012: source…
  • Report on the situation and future prospects of the European fishing sector in the context of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Thailand:…
  • IUU fishing is estimated to cost between €8 billion and €19 billion annually, representing 11 million to 26 million tonnes of catch.
  • Fiji, Panama, Togo, and Vanuatu were yellow carded in 2012, and Belize red carded in 2014. These states, and the measures they adopted, are now championed in the regional fight against illegal fishing.
  • Up to 40 percent of tuna imported to the U.S. from Thailand is illegal or unreported:
  • Other states have been granted extensions to adopt measures against IUU; these states are Curacao, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and South Korea.
  • Belize, Fiji, Panama, Togo, and Vanuatu have recently had the threat of sanctions lifted (delisted).  
  • The coalition is working to support effective and harmonised implementation of the EU IUU Regulation. Harmonised implementation of the Regulation across EU member states is crucial as they are the point of entry for imported fish, and are responsible for stopping illegal fish from entering the EU market. In this regard, the European Commission plays a vital role in supporting and coordinating efforts by member states, ultimately ensuring that full potential of this regulation is exploited.
  • On Tuesday 21st of April Commissioner Karmenu Vella will host a debate on how the European Union’s rules and tools in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, control, traceability and labelling can contribute towards better fisheries governance globally.

Location and time: 2.30 to 3.30pm, Seafood Expo Global, Brussels EXPO, Heysel Stand no. 7/1411.

Speakers will include:

Kim Young-Suk, Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of the Republic of Korea ?on fighting IUU.
Steve Trent, Executive Director of Environmental Justice Foundation(EJF) representing a ?coalition of four NGOs: EJF, Pew, Oceana and WWF involved in issuing industry guidance to ?avoid illegal fish products in the supply chain.
Peter Andrews, Sustainability Policy Officer from the British Retail Consortium and their ?commitment to responsible seafood sourcing.
Guus Pastoor, President of the European Fish Processors Association (AIPCE) on new ?labelling rules and IUU