Home   l   About Us   l    Projects   l   Data                                    


  1. News & articles
  2. Photo
  3. Participatory
  4. Overfishing
  5. Destructive gears


Participatory marine resource management

In the past, marine resource management was the exclusive domain of the government, including issuing relevant laws and regulations, developing marine resource utilization policy, issuing concessions for various types of resources and collecting taxes on marine animals and designating prohibited types of equipment.

In 1997, Thailand began using a new constitution, one in which the general population had a role in drafting and providing opinions.† This constitution, which became the law of the land in 1997, provided for the rights and participation of individuals, local communities and local administrative organizations in the conservation, utilization, and receipt of benefits from natural resources and biodiversity.† It also provided opportunity for local communities to participate in the oversight and maintenance of resources and to monitor the enforcement of laws.

†All along the 2,700 kilometer coastline of Thailand there are more than 50,000 fishing households.† Most of these communities make a living using traditional fishing methods and depend on the abundance of coastal resources.† They must look after and conserve the spawning areas of the marine animals they harvest and sell to make a living for themselves and their families, and must use the resources sustainably.† Allowing local communities to have a role in the management of marine resources is not only a key element in natural resource conservation, it is also a right granted to the communities under the provisions of the constitution, which is the highest law.†

†Strengthening community organizations is an important function which should be accomplished cooperatively by both government and private organizations to enable the monitoring and sustainable management of resources as well as to reduce the burden (both in terms of personnel and budget) of government agencies.

1.† Community organizations and resource management††Local fishing organizations are established with the ultimate goal of conservation and sustainable communal use of coastal resources.† Organization goals do not include control of fishing rights in any manner.† Traditional fishermen make a living using small boats and simple equipment which allow the selective harvest of target marine animal species.† Traditional fishermen must depend on natural resources for their livelihood.† Traditional fishing methods help insure the security of resource users and control the utilization and division of benefits within the community.† Local traditions and customs have evolved into the present community resource management and conservation laws and regulations which each community observes.††

Many local fishing organizations have participated in conservation of coastal resources from an awareness of the value of those marine resources that provide for community membersí livelihood.† If the resources are not looked after and maintained, then the last of the communitiesí reserve funds will be gone and in the future the communities themselves will deteriorate.

Fisheries management is concerned with people as well, not just fish.† Knowledge of biology alone is not sufficient:† it is necessary to realize the importance of economics and sociology as well.† Local fishermen have knowledge of marine animals, a knowledge based on experience, observation and indigenous knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

2.† Indigenous local knowledge Most natural resource management concepts are influenced by western thought as it is felt that western nations are already developed.† However, those concepts and management practices might not be appropriate for Thai society or local traditions.† The belief that western styles of forest and marine resource management are correct is based on academic principles.† That belief has caused local peopleís indigenous knowledge, which has historically been the basis of resource management, to be forgotten.† Indigenous local knowledge can provide academic explanations of many things and it is compatible with resource management, for example, the use of artificial reefs, dredging equipment or fishing equipment such as squid traps, etc.† Those methods were developed by the ancestors of todayís fishermen, and have been employed for many generations as a method of sustainable use of resources, something that we and our descendants should be proud of.

3.† The 3,000 meter area is a conservation area, not a form of zoning  The problem of deterioration of marine animal resources and the failure of government management efforts is frequently described as the result of conflicts over marine resources between traditional fishermen and large fishing boats.† In fact, the true situation is that community resources are being usurped by a small (wealthy) group of individuals who claim to be implementing development (for the nation), while in practice villagers and the majority of the people are being denied access rights to community resources.

The 3,000 meter zone is a resource conservation area designated by the Fisheries Law of 1947, not a demarcation of fishing zones.† The 3,000 meter zone is not set aside for small boat fishermen, nor are small boat fishermen prohibited from fishing outside the 3,000 meter zone as some fisheries officials state.† Rather, the 3,000 meter zone is an area where the use of fishing using equipment utilizing the power of a boat engine for dragging, pushing, plowing or raking is prohibited to prevent destruction of immature marine animal resources and marine animal habitat.

4.† Fishing rights are not shorefront fishing rights 
Fishing, both past and present, has been a mobile activity, moving to follow the schools of fish.† Provincial or district lines are not boundaries to fishing.† Gear used in fishing are selected depending on the type of fish targeted, e.g., bottom crab gillnets, trammel nets, floating gill nets.† However, technology has advanced and now there are many types of labor-saving equipment such as dragnets, pushnets, trammel nets, etc.† The quantities of these types of fishing gear used has increased significantly to the point where control is no longer possible.† This situation has led many fisheries technical experts to think in terms of a zoning methods for fishing and tax collection which is known as shorefront fishing rights.† For example, if Mr. A has a house on the bay but fishes in waters in front of the village of Mr. B, he must pay a tax to the village of Mr. B.† This method might not be fair for Mr. C whose house is on a canal or on a hill, i.e., Mr. C has no shorefront land at all, so he has to pay a tax to all the waterfront villages where he fishes.

Traditional fishermen, on the other hand, think in terms of the right to fish.† The shorefront of individual houses is irrelevant.† However, all fishermen must follow the regulations of the communities, e.g., prohibition of fishing equipment which destroys marine animal resources or habitat, use of nets with a community-specified net mesh size and closing bays during marine animal spawning seasons.† This could also include community-designated annual marine animal restoration activities.† Such regulations are specific to a given community, but they all must follow sound technical concepts as well as the traditional culture of the local area.

5.† Participatory resource management in marine national parks Problems of lack of local participation exist in many areas, particularly in national parks were there can be conflicts with people in the local area.† These conflicts can stem from government policies or from national park personnel conducting their duties.† Problems of this nature are likely to become more severe as time goes on and with the establishment of additional marine national parks.† There are 6 provinces on the Thai Andaman coast and there are already nearly a dozen marine national parks with additional parks in the planning stages.

The root cause of these problems is that some areas officially designated as a new national park overlap areas which local people had been using to make a living before the park existed combined with a conservation policy of forcing local people out of park areas.† Those actions are not compatible with the current situation.† Neither is the tourism policy which emphasizes providing special services to tourists by restricting areas and preventing local people from making use of resources.† Rather, this results in further escalation of the severity of the problem.†

The lack of clear policies and laws related to marine resource management usurps the rights of local people, for example, the policy of announcing boundaries of marine national parks, which cover almost all the coastal areas on the Andaman Sea and which overlap fishing grounds which were used by traditional fishermen living along the coast before the national parks were gazetted.† Traditional fishermen are arrested and charged with catching marine animals in a national park in violation of Section 16 of the National Park Law which prohibits individuals from removing animals or in any way endangering the animals.† This creates conflict between government officials and local people.

National park management should afford local people an opportunity to express their opinions and to participate in administration under the joint auspices of the government and local administrative councils.† That would help insure for local people rights, privileges and pride in their local area.† It would instill concern for the natural resources in the local area and provide for cooperative caring for and protection of those resources for future generations

Andaman Oraganization for Participatory Restoration of Natural Resource (ARR)
24/28   Moo 1, Sakdidate Rd., Tambol Vichit, Maung, Phuket 83000

Tel & Fax: 076-393458†   Email :