Depleted marine life pushes small-scale fishermen to brink in southern Thailand

Watjanaphol Srichumpuang

A fisherman’s wife shucks hard clams in Ban Pak Bara, Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A local fisherman displays a giant guitarfish at Tarutao island, Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A local returns from a fishing expedition with an empty basket, in Phuket island, Phuket province, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Restaurant operators wait to buy fish from locals at a pier in Krabi province, Thailand, May 16, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A local man digs for shellfish at the beach in Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A villager grills scallops in Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A local man farms fish in baskets instead of going fishing, Satun province, Thailand, March 12, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Locals out fishing after sunset in Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A local fisherman digs for shellfish at a beach in Satun province, Thailand, March 11, 2023. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]

Fishermen in more than 20 coastal provinces of Thailand are struggling to make ends meet as the once bounteous waters around them are coming up near empty.

These communities have depended on fishing for generations, but as their daily catch has continued to dwindle for nearly a decade, the elders are urging the younger generation to look for other occupations.

Narong Muangthongdam, a fisherman in Chumphon province, compared the current situation with better days.

“I have not found any mackerel, which I used to catch several kilograms of at a time in my teenage years,” he told BenarNews.

“Certain types of fish have completely vanished from the Gulf of Chumphon.”

Prichat Vetchayan, an associate professor at Srinakharinwirot University, believes the rising temperature of seawaters due to global warming has caused marine animals to flee to cooler or deeper areas for survival.

Additionally, industrial or commercial fishing, and illegal fishing, are compounding the problem. These activities have degraded marine resources, particularly juvenile species in mangroves and along the shore.

Industrial fishing has a severe negative impact, because several hundred thousand tons of sea creatures are harvested at a very young age every year to feed the seafood industry – for fishmeal factories, animal feed and the like – explained Vichoksak Ronnarongpairee, president of the Thai Sea Watch Association.

By comparison, fishing communities use simple tools such as small nets, cages, rods, traps, or digging tools to catch shellfish or crab buried in the ground, depending on the culture of the area. And most of that is sold to generate income for survival and to feed their families.

“As local fishermen, we must help ourselves as the government has never supported or prioritized us. But we refuse to give up and will continue to fight against large-scale fishing vessels,” Muhammad Sukri, a community leader in Ban Tanyongpao, Pattani province, told BenarNews.

“We have united to restore the sea to help increase the amount of aquatic animals and prevent fishing vessels using destructive equipment from secretly entering and fishing in the 3,000-meter area of the local fishing area.”


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