On May 7th and 8th the Thai blue swimmer crab processors association (TCPG), by way of the NFI Crab Council, and WWF-Greater Mekong hosted a stakeholder meeting at the Thai Department of Fisheries, located in Kasetsart University, Bangkok. Also attending were fishers from the eastern seaboard, representatives from the Thai Department of Fisheries (DoF), fishery representatives from Donsak and Chumpon provinces (major landing centers for blue swimmer crab which the sustainability initiative aims to be concentrate on), MRAG fishery consultant Robert Wakeford, and University lecturers from Kasetsart University.
The agenda for the 2-day conference was to review the MSC Pre Assessment (2012) and Scoping Synthesis and to have an open discussion with stakeholders on issues in the fishery, where sustainability performance indicators were vulnerable. This discussion would serve as a precursor to crafting a FIP Action Plan. The FIP Action Plan is an important aspect for all FIPs, it serves as guidepost for activities to be done and by whom, and a monitoring agent for progress on those activities to improve sustainability scores. It was noted that success factors for FIPs are: Stakeholder engagement, technical advising, resources, and a review process. Professor Jirapat Adjimangkun, from Kasetsart University moderated the open discussions.
On the first day of the conference Dr. Robert Wakeford, did an overview of the MSC Performance Indicators, followed by the Scoping Synthesis which assesses how the Thai blue swimmer crab fishery scored in the MSC Pre Assessment, and what criteria would need to be achieved in order to improve those scores. The Crab Council encourages all our blue swimmer crab fisheries to operate at a level on par with the MSC Standard, however, this does not suppose that we push our supplier fisheries to be MSC “Certified,” that is at the discretion of the suppliers themselves. It is the MSC Standard by which we are measuring sustainability efforts, and thus showing interim improvement along that curve is what is important for our FIPs. Furthermore market recognition for our FIPs that can be transferred into benefits or incentives for our sustainability efforts need to be aligned with the MSC, especially for an export commodity.
Open discussion with the larger group followed. The scoping synthesis, road blocks to addressing these issues, and a strategy on moving forward were main discussion topics. University lecturer and moderator opened up the dialogue with “What are the major problems in the fishery, and how can we fix it?” Pak Foods Business Development Manager, and leader of the TCPG processors association, Jiroj Sintavanuruk, detailed sustainability challenges in the market and pledged his support in this process and any supporting data from his processing facilities that may aid in research.
Highlights of the group discussion included, validating the vulnerability of components for MSC Principle 2, investigating crab bank technology as a part of national policy, develop information and data collecting systems to monitor and report developments in the fishery, increasing the mesh sizes for traps and nets, developing pragmatic methods for doing stock assessments that may be based on size ratios, and incorporating already existing management guidelines into the FIP Action Plan. Unlike most BSC fisheries in the region, Thai processors face fierce competition from the local market. Blue swimmer crab is a stable diet in Thailand and is especially demanded during the holiday and tourist seasons. Incorporating these groups will have to be filtered into a sustainability strategy moving forward. It was also highlighted that conflicts need to be resolved between commercial and small-scale fishermen. For the most part, blue swimmer crabs are harvested by small-scale fishers, but with low volumes and rising prices, commercial fisherman are now increasingly targeting the resource as well.
That although a FIP Action Plan was not drafted over the two-day conference (and highly unlikely that it would’ve been with the short time period), the shared consensus was that a healthy dialogue took place, which exceeded expectation. The conference will serve as a major stepping-stone to developing a strategy, outreach to other groups in the fishery, and drafting the FIP Action Plan. The conference brought people together from all corners of the fishery to talk about sustainability and improvement. People at the meeting acknowledged that there was an inherent need to steward the resource, and that platforms such as these bring all forms of fishery experts together to address issues, and develop strategies on improving the fishery.