The European Union has given Thailand six months to end “illegal and unregulated fishing,” or else face a seafood import ban, reports The Associated Press.
Thailand, which is the world’s third-largest exporter of seafood, is facing scrutiny in the aftermath of a yearlong investigation by the AP, which found that hundreds of Burmese fishermen were being held in captivity as part of a massive illegal seafood operation and forced to work 20- to 22-hour days for little or no pay.
Their catch was sent to Thailand, where it then entered into the global market, which included U.S. supermarkets and retailers. The Thai government has denied engaging in slavery, and has contended that conditions on the fishing boats were fair, and only employed Thai citizens.
Thailand has been issued a “yellow card,” which requires that the country makes major changes to its fishing practices; it is, effectively, a warning that does not include any sanctions. A “red card,” which will be imposed if Thailand does not meet EU standards in six months, will ban all products from the country’s fisheries. The ban would cost Thailand an estimated 575 million to 730 million euros annually ($618 million to $785 million USD).
In a statement, the government of Thailand said that it was “now firmly seizing the issue” and was ready to “match words with deeds.”