Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

6. Fishing activities and their social implications


Fishery along the Andaman coast provided a livelihood to 16531 fishing households, mainly active in marine capture fishery, in 621 fishing villages along the west coast of Thailand. The average size of a fishing household of five family members was about 1.3 household members higher than the average size countrywide. About 83000 people depended directly on marine fishery as their main income-generating activity.

Along the bay of Phang-nga, altogether 13111 fisherfolk were living in 114 fishing villages or 18 percent of all fishing villages along the Andaman coast. For 5759 fishing households (35 percent of all fishing households along the Andaman coast), marine fishery was the main occupation. On the average, 2.3 members per fishing household were engaged in fishery.

Small-scale fishing households

It is difficult to determine the total number of small-scale fishing households. Using the officially published fishery data, the total number of small-scale fishing households presented in Table 36 was calculated in three different ways. The first approach looked at the households and considered operator households as small-scale fishing households. The second approach used the main types of gear in the household to separate small-scale and commercial fishery. The third approach used the boats as indicators of small-scale fishing households, excluding households with inboard-powered boats, which were considered as households involved in commercial fishing. Table 36 shows the resulting numbers and percentages of small-scale fishing households.

Table 36: Small-scale fishery in the Andaman Sea defined by household, by boat and by type of gear (National Statistical Office & Department of Fisheries 1997)


Small-scale (including no boat)



Small-scale [%]

Commercial [%]



















Surprising was the fact that about 1599 inboard-powered boats were owned by fishery establishments, although only 781 households used commercial gear. Excluding the 359 joint management establishments (Table 2) and the 781 households using commercial gear (Table 6), there were still 459 households using inboard-powered boats with small-scale fishing gear. This discrepancy can be explained by the existence of a second type of boat used for small-scale fishery. Especially in the southern parts of the Andaman coast, small-scale fishermen use small inboard-powered boats.

For this study, the total number of small-scale fishing households was calculated as the percentage resulting from comparison of the gear and the total number of operator households. This meant that about 95 percent of 16531 households, or 15765, were small-scale households.

Small-scale fishing gear

Comparison of the different gear types used along the Andaman coast showed that the most common small-scale fishing gear was the shrimp gillnet or trammel net, used by 2952 households along the coast in 1995 (Table 6). In the bay of Phang-nga, 1723 households mainly used trammel nets. The main target species were shrimp; additionally, some short mackerels and sardinellas were caught.

The trammel net provided a small-scale fishing household with the highest annual net income, Bt33032. Fishing with the trammel net generated about 25 percent of the average annual income in the whole country for one household or, compared with the higher number of household members in fishery households, about Bt6606 per capita per year, 19 percent of the average in Thailand. Compared with the other small-scale types of gear, the trammel net provided a relatively high income, which also explains its high popularity.

The target species of the trammel net was shrimp. Shrimp are highly valued and a system of middlemen assured fast transport to the local as well as national markets. The main problem for the fishermen came from competition between the trammel net and other commercial types of shrimp-catching gear. Especially in the nearshore areas, the push net was still used, although it is illegal to do so. This destructive gear catches the target species but high numbers of undersized shrimp and fish too and it destroys the bottom structure of the fishing grounds. Its use within three kilometres from the shoreline was banned in August 1979. The enforcement of this regulation has been lax due to its socio-economic impact. The fishermen using the push net are poor. With the growing awareness of the environmental impact of push netting and the need to protect the environment as feeding and nursery grounds for the shrimp, small-scale fishermen are now trying to stop the push netters from devastating their fishing grounds. This has caused violent conflicts among the fisherfolk.

The most common commercial gear along the Andaman coast was the otter boat trawl, which also mainly catches shrimp. Trawling too has been banned within three kilometres from the shoreline since 1979, yet still takes place. To enforce the ban, the Department of Fisheries now uses artificial reefs: they make it impossible to trawl in the area, and protect the fishing grounds in front of the fishing villages. Conflicts between small-scale and commercial fishermen remain, especially because during its development the shrimp move from the nearshore areas into deeper waters and become an easy target for the trawlers.

The second type of small-scale fishing gear used in this study was the crab bottom gillnet, or crab gillnet (Table 6). Next to the trammel net, it was the most common gear used along the Andaman coast and it was the third most common net in the bay of Phang-nga. No other commercial gear competed for the same fishery resource. The crabs were caught in nearshore areas close to the mangrove forests or seagrass beds in front of the villages. The gear was highly selective and the fishing activity environmentally friendly.

The profit made from this fishing activity was of about Bt138.4 per fishing day or an annual net income per capita of B t2989. This was about 8.5 percent of the average for the whole country. It is believed that such an activity could not provide enough income to support a fishing household and fishermen had to use alternative gear or activities to earn a living. Furthermore, the increased destruction of mangrove areas and seagrass beds due to aquaculture, tourism and urbanization would worsen the loss of income for these fishermen.

The mackerel gillnet used in the bay of Phang-nga is not comparable with the gear used outside the bay. The profit generated with the mackerel gillnet was of Bt462 per fishing day or Bt5000 per capita per year. This was about 14 percent of the country average. Such net income per capita was not sufficient to support a small-scale fishing household and it is believed that the fishermen were also using alternative gear or activities to increase their income.

The middlemen

Socio-economic analysis of small-scale fishery along the Andaman coast has to include the trade of the catch and to analyse the system of dependence between fishermen and middlemen.

Due to their low income, small-scale fishermen are largely dependent on the middlemen, who provide needed financial support, i.e. to buy boats or gear and support the families with all kinds of household goods. For this service, the fishermen have to accept the price for the catch that the middlemen offer. The main result is that the middlemen control the fishing activities and therefore the money available in the fishing households. The fishermen have no way out of this trap and no means to improve their welfare and social status. To try to break out of the poverty trap, fishermen need first of all to be financially independent.

In the village of Sai Buak Hoi, the fishermen have set up a cooperative and sell their catch directly to traders two to four times a week, excluding the middlemen from the trade. The total income of the cooperative has increased. This was largely dependent on the following points:

1. the break of fishermen's dependence on the middlemen;
2. the provision of facilities to store the catch properly;
3. the accessibility of the village thanks to the construction of roads; and
4. the development of certain business skills by the members of the cooperative.
In Sai Buak Hoi, the fishermen were not dependent on middlemen because most of them were also landowners and fruit producers as well. A net repair hall, paid for by the Andaman Sea Small-scale Fishery Development Project, provides the space needed to store the catch, mainly shrimp, and to negotiate with the traders. Whenever enough shrimp is caught, the traders are informed by telephone, a set of which was installed nearby. The traders then come by car bringing their own transport boxes for the catch and fresh ice for the storage of the next catch. Each trader makes an offer for each product, i.e. different-sized shrimp, and the cooperative decides to whom to sell the catch.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page