Fishing and Aquaculture in Thailand

August 6, 2021Lu Shegay


Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia located in the center of the Indochinese Peninsula. Thailand experienced the highest economic growth in the world during the period of 1985-1996 and exporting more than USD 105 billion worth of goods and services, which includes fishery products. Fishing and aquaculture are one of the major industry types in the country - Thailand has access to the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, the Andaman Sea, and shares maritime borders with Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. It is estimated that aquaculture in Thailand has started approximately 300 years ago.

“Aquaculture development has been through three stages, first served to fulfill the domestic food demand as the basic purpose of primary industry and to stabilize social security by ensuring employment in rural areas. With the development of technology and government support under the policy on agricultural sectors and rural development, aquaculture then gradually played an important role in producing commodities for export. The third stage of aquaculture development presently is in a transition stage to adjust itself to be more harmonious with the natural environment and more consistent with socio-economic development. The present trend in technical development has been to go toward the improvement of the culture environment by using technological development and preventative measures, such as farm management technology and effluent management.”

"Photo Of Wooden Container Withe Fishes" by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels


Aquaculture in Thailand plays an important role. Fish farming is an intensive practice in the country that led to some animal law and environmental issues. One of the most popular farmed animals in aquaculture in Thailand is marine shrimp aquaculture.

In 2003, fisheries in Thailand estimated approximately 3.9 million tons, among which 27.2% was aquaculture production. In aquaculture, freshwater aquaculture comprised 9.2% and coastal aquaculture was around 18%. Inland fisheries composed 198 thousand tons, among which there were striped snakehead fish (12.1%), common silver barb (19.6%), walking catfish (7%). Among marine aquaculture, shrimp was the animal farmed the most (3.2%). Freshwater aquaculture in 1986 comprised 89.8 thousand tons and increased dramatically to 361.1 thousand tons in 2003. Tilapia was farmed the most and made the highest freshwater aquaculture (34.2% of total freshwater aquaculture production), followed by catfish (31.9%), prawns (7.89%), and Puntius gonionotus (24.3%).

“Total yield volume from coastal aquaculture was 61.9 thousand tons in 2003, a slight increase compared with that in 2000. Of this, 58 % were yield from prawn culture, and 2.4 % from fish culture. The rate of increase was highest for white shrimp culture. Production from tiger shrimp culture had been decreasing through the year. By species, the largest share in coastal culture yield volume was shellfish culture, green mussel (11.8 %) followed by oyster and blood clam. Yield from shrimp culture was 47.0 % of the total production. The rate of increase was now greatest for white shrimp (Litopeneaus vannamei), followed by sea bass (Lates calcarifer) and grouper. Shrimp production area in Thailand, with a total production area of 75,000 ha and 30,800 farmers and production of 330,000 tons in 2003, recent statistics show that 37% percent of shrimp farmers are small operators utilizing a farming area less than 0.8 %, and 11% an area more than 4.8 ha. In the last 5 years, some farmers in the Inner Gulf of Thailand moved to culture marine shrimp in the inner inland area, culture by low water salinities and the zero discharge technique.”

Read more: Aquaculture Development Toward the Sustainable and Environmental Management in Thailand and Aquaculture Development in Thailand

"Assorted Seafood in a Market" by Chait Goli from Pexels


Fishery activities in Thailand are regulated by the Fisheries Act. The Act provides major definitions for a fish, fish product, fisheries, fishing, aquaculture, etc. With that being said, a fish under the Act is defined as “any aquatic animal normally inhabiting in waters, inundated areas, partially inhabiting in waters, having a part of its life during a water-borne life cycle, the amphibian, including their eggs and spawns, sperms, seaweed, carcasses or any part of its, and include any aquatic plant life, the residues or any part of its as specified by the Notification of the Minister.” Fish product is the product derived from aquatic animals as raw materials. Fisheries includes fishing, aquaculture, and post-harvest handling or processing; while fishing is “catching, trapping, luring, shooting, harpooning, injuring, killing, or taking aquatic animals in the fishing ground with any fishing appliance or by any method.” Finally, aquaculture is identified as “any establishment, structure or facility employed in aquaculture, culture or breeding by natural or artificial propagation or any method in any stage of its life cycle.” (Section 4)

Part 1, 2, and 3 of the Act provides administrative and executive provisions for fishery activities, such as obligations to report, request permission, etc. Part 4 provides the sections for fishery statistics - which includes notifying, collecting fishery statistics, fisheries management of the persons engaged in fishery activities. (Section 22)

Section 26 provides that it is prohibited, except for scientific purposes:

The Act also prohibits to utilize an electric current or use any explosives in the fishing grounds, except for the official purpose with written permission of the Director-General or their entrusted person; to have in possession for commercial purpose any fish which a person knows that such possession having been acquired through the commission an offence under section 26 or 27; to grow lotus, rice, jute, crops or such other aquatic plant specified by the Minister in any fishing grounds not within the land owned by a person unless written permission has been obtained from the competent official; to drain water out of or dry up or diminish waters not within the land owned by a person for the purpose of fishing unless written permission has been obtained from the competent official; to make alteration to any fishing grounds not within the land owned by a person affecting its former conditions unless written permission has been obtained from the competent official; to erect, set up or build alike, dam, weir, screen, fence, fishing nets or other fishing gears or appliances in any fishing grounds obstructing the passage of aquatic animals unless written permission has been obtained from the competent official; etc. (Sections 27-32)

As prescribed by international law, the national Fisheries Act defines certain territories of the country’s waters. For instance, the Coastal Marine Fishery Zone is the fishing area within Thailand up to 3 nautical miles from the shoreline; the Offshore Marine Fishery Zone is the fishing area that is adjacent to the Coastal Marine Fishery Zone up to the outer limits of Thailand’s waters; the Inland Fishery Zone is any fishing area which is neither in the Coastal Marine Fishery Zone or the Offshore Marine Fishery Zone. (Sections 38-41) Using fishing gears/appliances in the Inland Fishery Zone, the Coastal Marine Fishery Zone, and the Offshore Marine Fishery Zone can only be exercised with a special permit/license of the competent authority.

Chapter V of the Act lists the provisions of import and export of fish and fish products. That said, Section 57 states that “for the purpose of conservation or prevention harm to the environment or any other species or for preventing harm to the human being or the proprieties of any person or the public, the Minister shall have the power to issue the Ministerial Regulations prescribing in respect thereof any type, kind, nature, number or size of fish or fish products whose the importer or the exporter shall be granted a license or permit from the competent official.”

Chapter XI provides penalties for violating certain Sections of the Act, and penalties vary between fines or imprisonment, or both.

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