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Fisheries Country Profile: Thailand

by Mr. Thana Yenpoeng

2017 Regional Fisheries Policy Network (RFPN) Member for Thailand

INTRODUCTION

Thailand is located in Southeast Asia bordering the Andaman Sea in the west and the Gulf of Thailand in the east (Figure 1). The country is divided into 76 provinces with about 514,000-km² total land area, total length of 2,624 km continental coastline, 394,000 km² shelf area, and a total water area of 319,750 km2 (FAO, 2018). Thailand has 25 river basins with 254 sub-basins, and the two principal river systems are the Chao Phraya River and the Mekong River. The country’s population in 2015 was 67.96 million and the GDP was US$ 386,674 million, GDP per capita at US$ 5,814.77, and fisheries GDP at US$ 2,947 million.

Figure 1. Map of Thailand
Source: FAOSTAT, 2018

Fish is the primary source of animal protein for most of Thailand’s population, particularly those in the coastal provinces. In 2016, fish consumption was 33.73 kg/capita/year, higher than the consumption of the other three main animal protein commodities, namely: pork, beef, and chicken. In Thailand, the price of fish is generally low compared with the other sources of animal protein but the level of consumption varies among its people, because of the differences in household incomes, species preference, and geographic locations.

There are over 650,000 people employed in fish farms and related industries (400,000 in freshwater aquaculture, 78,000 in brackishwater aquaculture, and 184,000 in processing plants). About one-third of those employed in the aquaculture sub-sector are women, particularly in activities related to feed preparation, feeding, harvesting, processing, accounting, and marketing.

STATUS AND TREND OF FISHERIES PRODUCTION

Total Fish Production

Fisheries production comes from four sub-sectors, namely: marine capture fisheries, inland capture fisheries, coastal aquaculture, and freshwater aquaculture. During the period 2011-2015, fisheries production had decreased starting in 2012 (Figure 2), however, the production slightly increased in 2015 in terms of volume because of the intensified efforts of the government in promoting responsible fishing practices and sustainable management of the fisheries sector, and the country’s adherence to the new paradigm of change in fisheries management.

Figure 2. Total fisheries production of Thailand in 2011-2015
by quantity (MT) and by value (US$ 1,000)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

By sub-sector, the largest portion of the production volume in 2015 was derived from marine capture accounting for approximately 58%, followed by coastal aquaculture at about 20%, freshwater aquaculture at about 15%, and inland capture fisheries at 8%. In terms of production value, coastal aquaculture accounted for 39%, marine capture at 36%, freshwater aquaculture at about 17%, and inland capture at 7% (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Proportion of production from fisheries sub-sectors in Thailand in 2015
by quantity (MT) and value (US$ 1,000)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

Capture Fisheries

  • Marine Capture Fisheries

 In 2015, production from marine capture fisheries was 1,317,217 MT. The important species caught included the Indo-Pacific mackerel, anchovies, and squid. Figure 4 shows the quantity of major groups of species caught from marine capture fisheries.

Figure 4. Major groups of species from marine capture fisheries production in Thailand
in 2011-2015 by quantity (MT)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

In 2015, a total of 110,616 fishing vessels were surveyed, which were categorized as registered (34.4%), licensed (27.0%), and operating inside (38.4%) and outside (0.2%) Thai waters (Table 1). Smaller vessels use a wide variety of fishing gears including gillnets, falling nets, traps, and hook and lines, while the main fishing gears used by commercial fishing vessels are bottom trawls, purse seines, and falling nets (Figure 5).

Table 1. Number of surveyed vessels by registration and licensing in Thailand as of 1 August 2015
Category No. of active fishing vessels operating within Thai waters No. of vessels registered as fishing vessels No. of vessels with fishing license No. of vessels operating outside Thai waters
Artisanal 33,205 27,631 20,546  
Commercial 9,307 10,382 9,307  
Total 42,512 38,013 29,853 238*

* In 2014, 76 fishing vessels obtained fishing licenses. In 2015, some vessels were not active due to license expiration in coastal States and some were applying for license to fish in the high seas. Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

Figure 5. Number of fishing gears and different sizes of fishing vessels in Thailand in 2015
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand
  • Inland Capture Fisheries

Production from inland capture was 196,600 MT in 2015 although the overall production trend was decreasing in 2011-2015. The important species were Nile tilapia, walking catfish, common silver barb, and giant freshwater prawn (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Major groups of species from inland capture fisheries production in Thailand
in 2011-2015 by quantity (MT)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

Aquaculture

  • Mariculture

Mariculture is practiced in the interface between freshwater and seawater. This sub-sector is becoming very important as it serves as alternative means of producing food fish that could substitute for the insufficiency of fish caused by the depletion of wild marine fish stocks. The rapid growth of mariculture is mainly due to the increasingly rapid development in culture technology. In addition, most of the marine shrimp, shellfish, and marine finfish cultured have relatively high prices and large market. Marine shrimp is the predominant species and makes a major contribution to export earnings. In 2015, marine shrimp production was 296,100 MT followed by shellfishes and fish (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Major groups of species from mariculture production in Thailand
in 2011-2015 by quantity (MT)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand
  • Freshwater aquaculture

Freshwater aquaculture is carried out either as monoculture or polyculture, depending on the species cultured. Monoculture is not only common for raising carnivorous species such as the hybrid catfish and snakehead, but also for freshwater prawn, striped catfish, and sand goby. Polyculture is employed principally to raise herbivorous and filter-feeding species, such as tilapia, silver barb, common carp, Chinese carps, and mrigala. Figure 8 shows the country’s production of major groups of freshwater aquaculture species in 2011-2015.

Figure 8. Major groups of species from freshwater aquaculture production in Thailand
in 2011-2015 by quantity (MT)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand
  • Ornamental fish culture

The ornamental fish trade is divided into two categories: freshwater ornamental fish (90%) and marine ornamental fish (10%). At present, there are about 350,000 owners operating the ornamental fish trade in Thailand. There are about 500 shops, of which 50% are in Bangkok and in other provinces in Ratchaburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, and Udon Thani. The value of exported ornamental fish species in 2011-2015 is shown Figure 9.

Figure 9. Value of ornamental fish species exported by Thailand in 2011-2015 by (US$ 1,000)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

FISH UTILIZATION

From 2011 to 2015, about 81% of the total fish production was used for human consumption while 19% was used for animal feed. For marine fish, about 22% was trash fish (used for non-food purposes most of which was channeled to the fishmeal industry) and 78% was utilized for human consumption. Around 24% of marine fish was consumed fresh and the remaining was processed into chilled, frozen, canned, or steamed, smoked, dried and/or salted, and/or converted into shrimp paste or fish sauce. All freshwater fish was used as food and as much as 76% was consumed fresh.

FISH TRADE

In 2015, the total value of surimi products exported to different countries was US$ 115,671 million as shown in Figure 10. In the same year, the country’s export of fishery products was valued at US$ 5,947 million (Table 2) while the value of imported fisheries products was US$ 2,578.6 million (Table 3). Thailand imports fishery products mostly for use as raw materials for processing of fishery products meant for the export market.

Figure 10. Destination countries of surimi products exported by Thailand
in 2011-2015 by value (US$ 1,000)
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand
Table 2. Destination countries/regions of fishery products exported by Thailand in 2011-2115 by value (US$ 1,000)
Destination country/region 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Africa 361,100 603,800 487,900 480,000 429,500
ASEAN 386,200 406,300 404,900 469,500 456,500
Australia 334,000 394,600 354,200 366,900 315,200
Bangladesh 900 1,500 1,900 2,200 8,800
Canada 339,100  352,000 272,300 275,900 239,000
China 136,700 154,500 183,000 235,500 229,800
Costa Rica 2,000 4,300 2,700 5,700 6,600
Dominican republic 14,500 14,600 9,800 9,900 11,900
EFTA 49,600 48,100 41,800 41,100 42,700
EU 1,073,900 1,001,200 924,300 791,100 594,000
Guatemala 2,100 4,100 3,000 3,500 4,100
Honduras 2,900 3,000 2,700 2,500 3,100
Hong Kong 94,300 100,600 96,200 105,600 104,300
India 8,800 11,600 11,400 6,000 10,900
Jamaica 11,100 14,700 12,500 12,800 11,900
Japan 1,610,200  1,698,900 1,356,600 1,255,200 1,182,400
South Korea 120,800 126,300 102,100 162,500 162,800
Macedonia 2,500 2,900 2,400 2,900 2,800
Maldives 4,000 2,300 2,800 3,500  2,400
Mexico 2,000  1,200 1,800 1,700 2,300
Middle East 298,800 378,900 350,100 385,600 379,900
New Zealand 39,500 47,200 38,300 40,900 35,700
Nicaragua 2,500 3,900 3,600 4,500 6,700
Panama 6,200  9,700  8,900 10,200 12,400
Papua new guinea 7,100 13,900 11,800 16,000 15,000
Puerto Rico 6,900 2,300 1,800 2,700  2,500
Russia 44,500 50,500 51,300 65,500 41,400
Serbia  4,400 2,500 2,600 4,500 4,700
South America 85,400 107,600  110,100 119,800 129,800
Sri Lanka 46,300 35,800 48,400 41,300 56,300
Taiwan 84,200 81,800 83,700 77,600 80,800
Trinidad 4,500 4,300 4,000 5,000 4,100
Tunisia 51,900 38,000 27,600 28,500  13,000
USA 2,135,200 1,781,600  1,443,300 1,439,800 1,287,100
Others 50,600 51,000 46,600 46,300 56,700
Total 7,424,700 7,555,500 6,506,400 6,522,200 5,947,100
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

 

Table 3. Destination countries/regions of fishery products รทported by Thailand in 2011-2115 by value (US$ 1,000)
Country/region of origin 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Africa 31,200 41,600 38,100 16,500 50,600
ASEAN 404,000 522,200 482,400 494,100 470,700
Australia 11,000 7,700 9,400 10,700 9,900
Bangladesh 2,200 1,900 3,200 3,000 3,100
Belize 500 1,400 1,900 2,300
Canada 17,000 29,700 17,200 20,300 22,400
China  192,300 251,500  267,200 359,400 388,300
Cook Islands 400 600 1,400 1,900 1,800
EFTA 98,700 104,700 113,200 114,600 116,800
EU 91,800 62,400 60,600 75,500 50,500
Faeroe Islands 600 500 600 500 1,300
Fiji 14,000 8,800 7,200 7,500 5,100
Greenland 5,300 6,100 2,200 2,900 5,100
India 98,400 98,100 116,100 96,700 133,300
Japan 151,800 185,500 194,500 177,800 169,700
Kiribati 22,100 31,900 49,700 37,600 83,300
South Korea 158,000 194,900 188,200 96,800 120,800
Maldives 35,200 31,700 62,500 36,700 39,200
Marshall Islands 79,700 74,600 65,600 36,400 21,900
Mauritius 2,300 3,000 3,600 1,600 2,100
Mexico 16,300 28,200 9,800 7,000 4,300
Micronesia 25,400 40,200 15,300 12,800 11,700
Middle East 18,900 22,000 8,200 21,300 28,700
New Zealand 13,100 20,000 31,300 37,500 24,100
Pakistan 29,300  25,500 31,800 45,100 50,400
Papua new guinea 47,600 66,200 47,900 68,100 99,800
Russia 45,900 43,800 30,800 35,700 33,300
Seychelles 4,400 5,500 3,700  9,600 3,000
Solomon Islands 22,800 19,300 18,000 9,200 11,300
South America 142,800 164,300 186,500 216,300 162,000
Taiwan 249,700 337,100 279,200 229,200 194,700
Tuvalu 6,500 6,400 16,000 1,700 3,200
USA 248,500 242,800 294,600 255,900 208,700
Vanuatu 111,000 144,400 163,700 63,900 14,200
Others 29,100 35,300 23,800 41,900 31,100
Total 2,427,800 2,858,400 2,844,900 2,647,600 2,578,700
Source: Fisheries Statistics, DOF, Thailand

FISHERIES POLICIES AND LEGAL FRAMEWORKS

National Laws

The new fisheries law in Thailand recognizes the importance of the fishing industry to the national economy and its role as an important employer and source of livelihood in coastal communities. New regulations require the Thailand National Fisheries Committee and provincial fishing industry groups to set up rules and manage the fisheries within their areas of authority. Membership of the national and local committees is specified under the law and includes government agencies, the private sector, and various fisheries committees and associations. The policy is very clear that instead of aiming for increased production, it is more important to promote the sustainable production of existing resources. The DOF will manage the fisheries to ensure maximum sustainable yield. Fishing licenses will be issued according to the available resources, and free fishing access would no longer be continued. Big efforts to reduce bycatch are promoted under the new ordinance by enlarging the mesh size to 5 cm for trawlers. Also, many fishing gears are banned such as push nets, except for small crustaceans, and stake traps. The new ordinance has a clear direction to promote environment-friendly production practices and to protect the environment as well.

International Compliance

Efforts to eliminate IUU fishing and ensure the sustainability of Thailand’s fisheries have been strengthened with the enactment of the new Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) which was approved by the Cabinet and received royal assent on 14 November 2015. Consisting of 176 sections, the new law is designed to achieve its objectives through five mechanisms: a licensing system, a vessel monitoring system, vessel inspection, a traceability system, and effective law enforcement. The new law is being implemented through 28 port in-port out centers at Thailand’s main fishing ports by officers from the Department of Fisheries (DOF), Ministry of Labor, Marine Department and its mobile team units, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).The responsibilities of DOF have been increased under the new ordinance which also entail increased manpower requirements. DOF officers are now inspecting all fishing boats before departure on fishing trips to prevent illegal fishing and slavery. DOF also inspects the vessel registration before departure as well as the fishing gear, crew, and their nationalities.

Gender Policies

Women have also assumed a leading role in the rapid growth of aquaculture, with their participation along the aquaculture value chain (production, transforming, and marketing) much more than in capture fisheries. The SSF Guidelines have opened up new policy space on gender equality. Yet, in implementing the Guidelines, women have been deterred from taking part in decision making, are invisible in most fisheries statistics and their interests excluded from national policies unless NGOs and women’s groups continue exerting efforts to advocate for their inclusion. Even when women’s needs are recognized, money and expertise may not have been allocated. In a hopeful sign, some recent projects are committed to promote gender equality and equity in the country’s fisheries sector.

REFERENCES

DOF. 2017. Fisheries statistics of Thailand 2015. Fisheries Development Policy and Strategy Division, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand. 92 pp

FAO. 2018. Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles – The Kingdom of Thailand. Available at http://www.fao.org/fishery/facp/THA/en. Accessed on 28 May 2018.

FAOSTAT. 2018. Statistics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#country/216. Accessed on 28 May 2018.