ILO regulations improve Thai fishing industry

BANGKOK — A survey of working conditions in Thailand’s fishing and seafood industry conducted by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization has found that new regulations resulted in progress in some areas, including less physical violence, but problems such as unfair pay and deception in contracting persist.

The European Union in April 2015 gave Thailand a “yellow card” on its fishing exports, warning that it could face a total ban on EU sales if it didn’t reform the industry. Thailand’s military government responded by introducing new regulations and setting up a command center to fight illegal fishing.

The ILO report released Wednesday on “Ship to Shore Rights” recommends that the Thai government strengthen its legal framework, ensure effective enforcement, establish higher industry standards and enhance workers’ skills, knowledge and welfare.

“We want competitiveness in the global seafood trade to mean more than low prices and high quality,” Graeme Buckley, ILO country director for Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, said at a news conference. “We want it to mean decent work for all the industry’s workers, from the boat to the retailer.”

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press investigation in 2015-16 that uncovered severe rights abuses affecting migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing and seafood industries helped turn an international spotlight on the problem. The AP’s stories contributed to the freeing of more than

2,000 men from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, more than a dozen arrests, amended U.S. laws and lawsuits seeking redress.

The ILO said that changes in Thailand’s legal and regulatory framework had contributed to positive developments since the group’s last survey of workers in 2013.