Gov’t to Pay Fishermen For Boats Lost in EU Crackdown

A navy officer prepares to board a fishing boat off the coast of Narathiwat in June 2016 for an inspection. The navy later found the boat violated fishing regulations and arrested the crew.

BANGKOK — The government on Tuesday approved a plan to compensate fishing boat owners whose crafts failed to meet standards set by the European Union in 2015.

Officials say the cabinet would pay owners half of the estimated value of each ship removed from service. In today’s agreement, the first batch of 305 ships will be eligible for compensation in the program, which is reported to cost about 764 million baht in total.

A leader of a fishing association in Songkhla province welcomed the move despite its delayed rollout.

“Operators and boat owners are satisfied, and they’d like to thank the officials,” Suradech Nil-ubol told reporters. “Even though it was delayed, it is the assistance that fishermen wanted to see from the government.”

The junta blocked hundreds of fishing boats from leaving port after the EU warned Thailand in 2015 that its seafood exports could be boycotted in Europe if unregulated fishing continued.

Under the “yellow card” measure, only boats equipped with tracking systems, log books and adequate safety standards could supply the industry. Hundreds of boat owners said they were stuck with ships they could not sell and urged the government to compensate their losses.

After years of negotiations, the government agreed in December to buy the boats. Earlier this year in January, it lifted its yellow-card warning, citing improvements in the fishing industry.