Stagnant fishing game reels in new crew | Bangkok Post: news – Bangkok Post

Police arrested this foreign migrant crew in a raid on trawlers at Samut Sakhon late last year, spurring attempts to try to recruit Thais for the long voyages at sea. (File photo)

A hardy band of aspiring fishermen have joined a pilot project to recruit Thai crews in a bid to counter the negative image of the fishing industry.

More than two dozen Thai men have joined Samut Songkhram’s project to attract Thais to the trawlers and counteract bad publicity which has tarnished the industry.

As they prepare for a 13-day training period later this month, they have spoken out about why they want to join the industry, following the government’s crackdown on trafficking of mostly migrant labourers who were forced to work on trawlers.

Wasan Chuimani was among 30 participants interested in the programme. The 34-year-old former chef at a restaurant in Koh Samui said he was “bored” with his job on the resort island after 13 years and wanted to know whether the negative views against the fishing industry were true. He said he wanted to find out “why Thai people don’t do it and migrant workers are leaving the jobs”.

Fishing is tough work which requires fishermen to board boats and not see their families for months. The industry was also plagued with many problems including the illegal hiring of foreign labourers, but with the government’s attempts to improve fishermen’s working conditions, Mr Wasan believes everyone will be well protected under law.

State authorities have been more cautious about illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing after the European Union threatened to ban imports of Thai seafood and gave it a yellow card, a final warning, in 2015 if the country failed to combat IUU. They are also more alert to the issue as the country’s human trafficking situation is still under close watch by the US State Department.

However, a state measure that does not allow trawler operators to register new foreign fishermen has dealt a blow to the fishing business. In Samut Songkhlam alone, operators of more than 2,000 fishing boats are desperately seeking crew.

They have strived to solve the problem by working with provincial officials to train Thai men who want to be fishermen. Despite minimal interest, the strong will of the first batch of 30 applicants is a good sign.

Being optimistic about fishing, Mr Wasan has a macro-look at its importance, not just focusing on the individual benefits of the wage he stands to earn of at least 400 baht a day, which is above Thailand’s minimum wage.

If fishing trawlers are left idle because of a scarcity of fishermen, the amount of sea products on the market will fall, raising their prices and leading to seafood shortages. Tourism businesses will bear the impact including disappointment among tourists who enjoy eating seafood. “I know this problem well because I used to be a chef and needed to buy sea products myself,” he said.

Another prospective fishing trainee, Saichon Kaeophothanloet, said he is ready to brave his new job though it is viewed as dangerous when fishing boats are hit by strong winds.

New radar technology installed on boats and better weather forecasting “relieve my worries”, said the 35-year-old former chief at a factory.

His mention of a possibility of stormy sea reflects part of the negative attitude towards fishing. The powerful Typhoon Gay that slammed Thailand in 1989 sank fishing boats and claimed many lives. The incident discouraged many Thais from pursuing a life at sea and is believed to have forced operators to illegally hire foreign labourers.


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