Thailand threatened with possible EU fish trade ban

Labourers sorting fish unloaded from a trawler at a port in Pattani, southern Thailand Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 300,000 people are thought to be employed in Thailand's fishing sector

Thailand's government said it is "confident" it can address concerns over illegal fishing that could result in a trade ban from the European Union.

The EU warned on Tuesday that it would block seafood imports unless "a corrective tailor-made action plan" was implemented within six months.

Thailand's agriculture ministry has since unveiled a six-point plan designed to combat illegal fishing.

The South East Asian country is the world's third-largest seafood exporter.

About 15% of Thailand's seafood exports are destined for the EU. Last year, Thailand shipped 145,907 tonnes of fish products worth nearly $700m to EU countries.

"Failure to take strong action against illegal fishing will carry consequences," the European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said in a statement.

"By using our market weight, the EU is getting important players on board."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thailand is the world's third-largest seafood exporter, behind China and Norway

The EU said it had imposed similar sanctions on Belize, Guinea, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. So far, only Belize has been removed from the blacklist.

The Philippines and South Korea were also issued with a "yellow card" warning from the EU, but those were lifted on Tuesday.

Mr Vella said both countries "have taken responsible action, amended their legal systems and switched to a proactive approach against illegal fishing".

Thailand's fishing industry has come under scrutiny after investigations uncovered the use of human trafficking, forced labour and ill-treatment.

It is thought that more than 300,000 people are employed in Thailand's fishing sector.

However, many of the workers are illegal migrants from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia.

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