“The Thai government has tried to clamp down on human rights violations in the fishing industry but these Thai fleets remain as ruthless as ever,” said Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Our investigation shows that rather than changing the way they fish to meet the regulations, they are just shifting to isolated and less regulated fishing grounds outside the region.”
Between 2014 and 2016 Greenpeace Southeast Asia tracked Thailand’s rogue overseas fishing vessels and found that, after fishing restrictions were imposed by the governments of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in August 2015, as many as 76 Thai flagged vessels shifted their operations to the environmentally fragile Saya de Malha Bank in the Indian Ocean, more than 7,000km away from Samut Sakhon, Thailand’s seafood epicentre.
Maintaining fishing fleets in the distant Saya de Malha Bank requires routine journeys by reefer vessels of over 7,000 km, making transshipment at sea central to the Thai business model. This model allows the fishing vessels to remain at sea and out of reach of authorities, where they can operate outside the law. The reefers deliver supplies and sometimes trafficked workers, and pick up fish, with some shipments reported to include up to a 50% bycatch of sharks /.
The Turn the Tide report also found that the negligent use of trafficked, abused and underpaid local and foreign workers can lead to horrific outcomes such as the outbreak of beriberi disease . An official investigation into six beriberi fatalities concluded that the men had died of heart failure caused by poor nutrition, overwork, and long periods at sea without returning to port, a situation that was enabled by transshipment at sea /.
Furthermore, of the 15 trafficked survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, almost half experienced physical violence on the vessels. One of the main reasons for beatings was illness, especially when there was insufficient food on-board and exhausted crew members would try to sneak off to rest.
“The powerful Thai Overseas Fishing Association, which controls much of the billion dollar fishing industry, have eroded trust in their willingness to operate modern, sustainable and ethical businesses. Greenpeace and other Human Rights NGOs are asking them to change the way they operate to meet regulations for the sustainability and viability of the fishing and seafood sectors,” added Pipattanawattanakul.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s supply chain investigations demonstrate the unacceptably high risk of tainted surimi  entering numerous seafood and non-seafood supply chains throughout 2016, including products destined for export which end up being raw ingredients for sushi and pet food products sold around the world.
"As long as transshipment at sea continues, it will be nearly impossible for any seafood company to guarantee that the fish they are selling is both sustainable and ethically caught,” said Oliver Knowles, Sustainable Tuna Project Leader at Greenpeace New Zealand. “The case for banning transshipments at sea grows stronger by the day. The evidence in our report puts more pressure on the Thai and international fishing industry to phase out this deeply problematic practice that allows so many problems to flourish.”
Greenpeace is calling for greater control, including prioritising efforts to eliminate risky practices such as transshipment at sea, to be exerted over Thailand’s distant water fishing fleets. It recommends stricter monitoring and enforcement measures from the Thai government to ensure that only sustainably and ethically-produced Thai seafood reaches the shelves, freezers, sushi bars and cat bowls around the world.
Notes to the Editor:
 Turn the Tide report can be downloaded here
 Greenpeace (2016) Focus group interviews with 15 Cambodian trafficking survivors, Ranong, April 2016
 Murua, H. et al (2013) Provision of scientific advice for the purpose of the implementation of the EUPOA sharks
 Beriberi is a fatal disease that results from a lack of Thiamine (Vitamin B1) in the body. Symptoms include swelling, pain in the limbs, loss of sensation and paralysis, muscular atrophy, shortness of breath and cardiovascular failure.
 Greenpeace (2016) Interview with Dr. Thirawat Hemajutha, Bangkok, June 2016
 Centre for Disease Control, Thailand (2016)
 Surimi, a processed fish meat paste, is widely-consumed in a variety of forms across Asia and is most commonly known in North American and European markets as imitation crab or “crab sticks”, where it may be used as an ingredient in sushi, fishcakes and pet food.
Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Tel: +66091 7703521, Email:
Oliver Knowles, Sustainable Tuna Project Lead, Greenpeace New Zealand
Tel: +64021 455 223, Email:
Therese Salvador, Media Relations Coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Tel: +63917 8228734 Email:
Greenpeace International Press Desk, , phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)
**Images available on request**