Fishy business: industry urges against Thai deal

Myanmar information search service

Representative of Myanmar’s fishing industry are lining up against renewing a contract to allow Thai firms to trawl in Myanmar’s waters in return for cash payments.

The deal expires in March 2014, but many industry players say the agreement’s time has passed as it was initially implemented in 2004 to generate revenues in foreign currency during military rule, said an official with Yangon Region’s Department of Fisheries.

“The final decision rests with the government, but Myanmar fishermen certainly don’t want the agreement anymore,” he said.

Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association joint secretary U Aung Than Oo said the government generates US$12 million from the fishing rights annually, but lost a disproportionately large amount of stock in return.

He said Thai fishermen often follow unfair practices such as using outlawed nets, cloning ship licence plates and coming in too close to shore.

“That’s why our waters have lost resources, and we catch fewer fish than in the past,” he said, adding the competition disadvantages Myanmar fishers.

Thai embassy officials did not return requests for comment.

U Khin Maung Aye, deputy minister of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said the standard catch per unit declined to 80 kilograms an hour this year from 150kg for the same effort a decade ago.

“The complaints of falling catches are correct, and we will consider how best to deal with it,” he said.

U Myint Thu, head officer of the fisheries department at the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said the government plans to hold a workshop in Nay Pyi Taw to collect different viewpoints on the agreement with Thailand before submitting a decision for government approval.

The deal, first inked in 2004, allows three Thai companies to fish in Myanmar territorial waters, though Jonathan Company gave up its privileges in 2009, leaving Ryuji International and Sandaroon Fishing to continue operating.

Under the deal some 62 Thai boats fish outside a line 12 miles (19 kilometres) from Myanmar’s shores after passing through the Kawthoung checkpoint in Tanintharyi Region – though up to 300 boats had previously taken part.

Several Thai fishing boats were fined a total of $1.2 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year for circumventing rules, though control over illegal fishing falls to the navy rather than the Department of Fisheries and Livestock.

Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann said during a September visit to the Myanmar Fisheries Federation he would support attempts to end the deal with Thailand, adding the government would not lose a significant amount of tax revenue in process.

Source: Myanmar Times

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