Thai navy shows off new technology

2016-12-11 15:30
Thai navy officers check the crew of a fishing boat in the waters off the coast of Samut Sakhon. (Dake Kang, AP)

Thai navy officers check the crew of a fishing boat in the waters off the coast of Samut Sakhon. (Dake Kang, AP)

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Samut Sakhon - Thailand's navy has showed off new technology to monitor fishing boats in a renewed effort to crack down on illegal fishing, forced labour and corruption in the seafood industry.

New equipment the navy has been testing includes a GPS tracking system to monitor fishing vessels, a central database and a scanner for officials to check documents.

The system won't fully be in place until April, but outside groups are already skeptical it will achieve what it's set out to do unless more human enforcement is put into place.

Crew identification

Thailand has been under pressure from the European Union after revelations that it relied heavily on forced labour and is facing a potential total EU ban on seafood imports unless it reforms its fishing industry.

"We're doing this to increase the effectiveness of inspection, because putting humans in the loop has caused some errors in the past," said Commodore Piyanan Kaewmanee, head of a Thai navy group that oversees illegal fishing, who pointed to corrupt officials as a major issue.

"We can ensure that our workers are accounted for and aren't lost at sea or transferred from ship to ship."

Technology shown to reporters included a handheld scanner that can read crew identification and other papers to make sure workers are documented and the fishing gear is licenced. During the inspection demonstration, workers crouched and huddled together, holding up green identification cards, as Thai navy sailors boarded their ship, looked through documents and patted down workers.

Catch fish

The scanners will be integrated into a vessel monitoring system which will keep track of the location of all Thai fishing vessels using GPS technology and a central database.

The monitoring improvements follow international pressure after a report last year revealed that Thai boats were using slaves from countries including Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to catch fish, putting a spotlight on illegal practices in the industry, including unregistered boats and unsustainable fishing.

Read more on:    thailand  |  conservation  |  maritime

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