The hiring of Thai helmsmen on Myanmar fishing boats has been criticised by the local fishing industry.
Two Myanmar companies last year hired Thai captains on the grounds that they were familiar with the use of sonar to find fish.
The issue has long been contentious. Faced with opposition by local fishermen, the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development abrogated Thai fishing rights in the Andaman Sea off Tanintharyi Region last year. Now the Regional Fisheries Federation is asking the government to ban the hiring of foreign crew.
U Min Lwin, chair of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation in Kawthoung township, said, “The ministry asked us for our comments, but so far we’ve had no response from them”.
Calls to the ministry from The Myanmar Times went unanswered.
In the 2014-15 fishing season,Looking Forward and Htoo Htoo Toe fishing companies hired Thai helmsman for three tours on the two fishing boats owned by each company, he said. The fishing season is now over, and the helmsmen have been discharged.
“We oppose this practice because we’re worried about the security of our national waters, access to resources there, and jobs for Myanmar fishermen,” said U Min Lwin.
For the coming season, five fishing boat owners have sought permission to hire Thai helmsmen, said U Soe Soe, general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Department in Myeik township. “The problem will continue to grow unless the government acts. We’re still awaiting a response about our concerns,” he said.
A similar issue arose some years ago over the recruitment of Chinese helmsmen, which the government later restricted in favour of the hiring of local crew members.
“The ministry understood that foreign captains should not be hired to work in Myanmar waters, and banned the practice. They should not now allow the hiring of Thai crew,” he said.
U Han Htun, a member of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation Yangon, said local sailors were just as skilled in the use of sonar as Thai crew.
In the past, the government generated around US$12 million from fishing rights to Thai companies but lost a disproportionate amount of stock.
In 2013, U Khin Maung Aye, deputy minister of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, told The Myanmar Times that the standard catch per unit had declined to 80 kilograms an hour from 150kg for the same effort a decade before.
Complaints leading to the termination of the agreement included allegations that Thai fishermen were breaking the rules, cloning ship licence plates and fishing too close to the shore.
Source: Myanmar Times