The need to address environmental and social issues in the Thai fishmeal industry has led, via a complex journey, to a well-subscribed Fisheries Improvement Project in the Gulf of Thailand and the fishery applying to join the MarinTrust (formerly IFFO RS) Improver Program.
Seven years ago, the fast-developing shrimp industry decided to answer the concerns of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) about the sustainability of its feed by working towards eventual acceptance onto a certification program. This could be achieved by setting up a fishery improvement project (FIP), which was agreed by the eight private sector Thai fisheries organizations. They got together as the Thai Sustainable Fisheries Round Table.
The industry prioritized social aspects within the supply chain with human rights, including forced labor and worker's voice, being targeted. With these issues often being intertwined with broader themes, it was decided that this approach should also cover fisheries management and governance, together with environmental responsibility and transparent traceability throughout the supply chain. The approach involved various stakeholders, including fishermen and processors, governmental departments along with experts and representatives from the whole supply chain.
In October 2016, the Thai Sustainable Fisheries Round Table was finally able to announce a cooperation with the Thai government to adopt international fishing standards in the Gulf of Thailand. This paved the way towards creating a long-term sustainable fishery, taking into account the ongoing issues with overfishing, and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) activities. The announcement marked the formal establishment of the FIP.
The project was the first in the world to apply the newly developed MarinTrust multi-species fishing criteria as part of the MarinTrust Improvement Program. “The MarinTrust program is best suited for the management of marine fishery resources in Thailand, as it is developing a method to tackle complex multi-species fisheries. The Gulf of Thailand is home to a multitude of different species of fish, so the assessment is a good test case,” said Dr. Viriyatum, the initial FIP coordinator for the Gulf of Thailand.
“There has been great progress in the industry in recent years to demonstrate real improvements in Thai fisheries, and we believe this will continue through the FIP and its commitment to the MarinTrust process,” said Vorapong Iamtrakul, general manager, Bureau of Standards Sustainable for Food Raw Materials at CP Foods.