15 illegal migrant fishermen jailed; boat owners face massive fines

Fisheries Department officers inspect documents and permits of fishermen at Warasin Pier in Samae San sub-district of Sattahip.

Two fishing boats were impounded and 15 illegal migrant workers jailed after a Fisheries Department inspection of a Sattahip pier.

Fisheries Deputy Director Bancha Sukkaew led the March 20 check for illegal labor at Warasin Pier in Samae San, finding 11 foreign fishermen using fake seabooks.

Further investigation by the Port In/Out Control Center discovered another four alien seamen with bogus documents.

The boats were impounded and both owners and laborers arrested. The illegal fishermen face fines of 400,000-800,000 each while the owners will be hit with fines of 1.6 million to 4.4 million baht. Their fishing licenses also will be suspended for five years.

Fisheries Department officers inspect fishing boats checking for licenses and illegal migrant workers.

The extreme penalties – extremely unusual in a country where fines for most crimes are laughably low – are the result of Thailand’s close-call with the European Union which, in 2015, issued Thailand a “yellow card” warning for its perennial failure to control illegal fishing practices, human trafficking and unregistered boats. The country was given six months to clean up its act or face a complete ban on its seafood by EU countries, which could cost the kingdom 30 billion baht a year.

The deadline eventually was extended and the threat of a ban was lifted in 2017, but the result was that illegal fishing became one of the most serious offenses in the country.

Enforcement lagged during the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, but continued international pressure on Thailand to keep the industry clean has resulted in a new wave of inspections and crackdowns.