Thailand’s Fish Product Traceability System:
A key tool for Combating IUU Fishing

By Natalie Tellwright, Senior Fisheries Analyst
22nd March, 2019

The Thailand Department of Fisheries has won second place in the Stop IUU Fishing Award Contest for their Fish Product Traceability System. The Stop IUU Fishing Award Contest aims to promote the efforts of the International Community to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and this was its third biennial Contest after launching in 2012.

Thailand has undergone significant reform across all dimensions in the fisheries sector and developing a robust and national traceability system has been an important element of this reform. Thailand’s Fish Product Traceability System began development in 2016 and is a key tool for controlling fish from both Thai-flagged fishing vessels and importation throughout Thailand’s seafood supply chain.

For domestic-vessel landings, Thailand has implemented an electronic system which links information about vessel activities, registration, fishing license and port-in port-out information with landings, purchasing, processing and up to issuing Catch Certificates. Linking vessel activities with port-in port-out information allows officers to have online real-time access to information on fishing vessels which is highly beneficial to monitor and target inspections. As this system links with purchasing information, fish buyers and middlemen are able to trace back the product to origin.

For imported fish, Thailand’s accession to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) has empowered the Thai authorities to exert greater controls over Thai fishing ports and take strong enforcement action against foreign-flagged vessels that carry fish products into Thailand that may have been involved in IUU fishing. The majority of tuna deliveries to Thailand, one of the largest tuna processors in the world, fall under Thailand’s PSMA authorities. The PSM aspect of the electronic traceability system controls foreign-flagged vessels and their catches and encompasses pre-arrival analysis, vessel investigation prior to port entry, on-board inspection at port, off-loading of fish and transportation from port to processing plants. This system helps the officers verify and cross-check the origin and legality of imported fish more efficiency and is linked with Import Permits and Processing Statements which include actual species and weight necessary for reporting and export.

OceanMind has been proud to support the Thai DOF in the development and implementation of its PSMA program to ensure that IUU-related fish is not authorised to enter onboard foreign-flagged vessels. This has included extensive capacity building for the DOF’s inspectors as well as analysis support for every vessel arrival to highlight any risks for inspection and outreach to flag and coastal states by the DOF PSMA team. This work has been supported by members of the Seafood Task Force, who are also working more broadly with the government to address IUU fishing and forced labour in the seafood sector. In particular, Mars Petcare and also The Pew Charitable Trusts have contributed to help show an important example of national level implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement. OceanMind and the Thai DOF are also currently developing tools to make it easier for DOF officials to conduct the analysis and to more easily share the results of inspections with industry to show that all product is IUU free for seafood buyers globally.

Thailand’s national traceability systems and the application of a catch certification scheme compliment the improvements in enforcement procedures and processes and enables Thailand to trace catch from Thai-flagged vessels as well as imported fish, through to market and export. The system is an important Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) tool and supports wider policies, procedures and controls surrounding the fisheries sector to ensure the legality of fish and the prevention of IUU product from entering the market.

The Stop IUU Fishing Award was presented during the Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW) in Bangkok, organised by the International MCS Network which works to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of fisheries-related MCS activities through cooperation and knowledge sharing. Thailand have made important innovations to increase the capacity and capability of Department of Fisheries (DOF) officials to control fish and fish products throughout chain of custody, and these advancements have been rightly recognised and awarded by the international MCS community.

Well done to all of our colleagues in the DOF on this well deserved award!