Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

The Field Study (contd.)

Table 3.7 Boat length and horsepower, Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Boat Lengths (meter)Horsepower
Under 55–910–1415–1920 & overTotal%
Under 52----24.4
15.0 & over--1-124.4

Table 3.8 Distance from coast to fishing grounds, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Distance (Km.)Sai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
Under 1829.612.4
50 & over-0.010.0
Not applicable13.724.8

Notes: 1) Average distance in Sai Dang village was 5.02 km. in 1997.

2) Average distance in Koh Maphrao village was 18.9 km. in 1997.

Table 3.9 Fishing gear, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Fishing GearSai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
Snapper gill net-0.00-0.00
Seabass gill net24.08-0.00
Sand whiting gill net12.043253.33
Other gill net1224.491220.00
Shrimp trap-0.0011.67
Crab trap1326.53-0.00
Long line816.3323.33
Long line for rays-0.00610.00
Hand push net510.20-0.00

Table 3.10 Problems mentioned first by persons engaged in fishery, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1997

Type of ProblemsSai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
High operating costs619.35713.73
Diminished fishery resources516.1335.88
Natural calamities13.2323.92
Border problems722.58-0.00
Problems related to fishing gear & craft-0.00713.73
No problem825.812956.86
Not applicable13.23-0.00

Table 3.11 Other problems mentioned by persons engaged in fishery, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1997

Type of ProblemsSai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
High operating costs26.4523.92
Diminished fishery resources412.9011.96
Natural calamities13.23-0.00
Border problems412.90-0.00
Higher competition412.90-0.00
No problem1445.164894.12
Not applicable13.23-0.00

Table 3.12 Annual net income from fishery in 1997, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Annual Income from Fishery Activities (1997)Sai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
Under 20,000723.3918.0
100,000 & over13.3918.0

Note: 1) Average income from fishery activities in 1997 in Sai Dang village was 47,909.7 baht.

2) Average income from fishery activities in 1997 in Koh Maphrao village was 62,865.7 baht.

Table 3.13 Total net annual income per household engaged in fishery in 1997, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Total Net Annual Income per Household (1997)Sai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
Under 25,00026.4523.92
200,000 & over13.2323.92

Note: 1) Average annual income in Sai Dang village was 73,644.35 baht. in 1997

2) Average annual income in Koh Maphrao village was 82,379.65 baht. in 1997

Table 3.14 Fishery income in fishing households as percentage of total annual household income, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Fishery Income as % of Total Annual IncomeSai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
Number of Households%Number of Households%
Under 20413.33510.00

Table 3.15 Women's roles in fishery, Sai Dang village, Ranong province, and Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province, 1998

Women's RoleSai Dang VillageKoh Maphrao Village
No. of Households Engaged in Fishery%No. of Households Engaged in Fishery%
Selling fresh products13.2311.96
Mending fishing gear13.231019.61
Fishing & Selling-0.0011.96
Fishing & Mending gear-0.00611.76
Selling & Mending gear-0.0011.96
Fishing, Selling & Mending gear-0.0011.96
Selling processed products26.45-0.00
Processing & Selling processed products13.23-0.00

II.4 Qualitative case study

In this report, quantitative interviews of household members in the two fishing communities are supplemented by extensive interviews with four individuals from each community. In each community, two pairs of individuals are compared in terms of their perceptions concerning changes in various aspects of their lives and their natural environment. Each pair is of opposite sex and the two pairs are of different generations. Interviews with a number of provincial government officers responsible for fishery and coastal land use add further information.

Interviews in Sai Dang village, Ranong province

First informant

Occupational and socio-economic profile

Phraew Charoen-Odsod, a 57-year-old farmer, is the village headman. This key informant said that the main occupation of Sai Dang villagers used to be agriculture, i.e. mixed farming of stink bean (Parkia speciosa Hassk.), coconut, mangosteen and durian. After the Zeta monsoon in September 1996, however, the population had to shift to fishing or to find employment in other activities, or both.

In the old days, fishery resources were more abundant and income derived from their exploitation was sufficient for the family, but at present, the resources were dwindling, making fishing only a subsistence occupation. Current fishing gear and methods were very different from the past. For example, hand push nets to catch acetes used to be used very near to the coast, but now, nets with small mesh attached to four squared poles had to be used instead. Fisherfolk also used to have long lines with bent nails for hooks and roasted dried coconut pieces as bait to catch small shrimps later collected at low tide by dip net, and they also had long lines for rays. At present, besides the nets attached to four poles for catching small shrimps to be processed as shrimp paste, they had started to use crab traps and, in the last few years, gone into coastal aquaculture. They went for cages, not shrimp farms, as they realized shrimp farming destroys coastal resources and pollutes the water.

Role of women

The respective roles of men and women had also changed. In the old days, the quality of life was much better than at present. There was no need for a woman to go out to work because the income brought back by the head of the household was sufficient. Now, economic hardship made it necessary for women to do extra work to supplement household income. Women in farming families had to help their husbands in farming activities or work as employees in food freezing factories in the city. Those in fishing households needed to process shrimp paste and sell it as well, rather than keeping it for household consumption as in the old days.

Income distribution

Income and income distribution were difficult to assess in terms of changes. In the old days, economic status was measured in terms of land ownership, but now the criteria were home ownership, occupation, and vehicle ownership. Previously, about 20 percent of the families were considered poor, 50 percent were of middle income and 30 percent rich. At present, the respective percentages were 10, 70 and 20 percent. Fishing families were considered poorer than non-fishing families.

State of the coastal environment

The coastal environment too had changed drastically. Mangrove forests had shrunk considerably, mainly because around 1986 the government granted investors the right to make use of land 200 metres from the coast as well as of the coastal resources that went with the land. The decision affected the 9 km-long coastal line extending from Lam Takua to La-un. Of the previous 9 000 rai of mangrove forests, only 200 to 300 rai remained, Headman Phraew said. The villagers were very angry and on 20 May 1986, they protested against the decision, which was bound to destroy the coastal resources. The protest was caused by their awareness of not only the impending deterioration of the coastal environment but also of the direct negative impact the measure would have on their economic activities by reducing the land they had access to. Fortunately, a member of the Royal Family visited the village to assess the state of mangrove forests and, at her behest, the decision was rescinded and a Royal Project to increase mangrove forests was started, with the participation of the villagers.

In the old days, the government also granted concessions for making charcoal from trees in the mangrove forests, but this was no longer allowed. Now, the villagers were more aware of the need to protect the mangrove and conserve coastal resources in general, Headman Phraew stated.

He agreed that fishing had become an almost unprofitable occupation, because of the dwindling fishery resources and of the Thai-Burmese border-related problems. Thus, those engaged in fishing should diversify their activities to include aquaculture, such as cage culture of sea bass, grouper or shellfish. These cage cultures would not pollute the coastal seawater or mangrove forests as shrimp farms did. Headman Phraew repeatedly stressed that shrimp farms should not be promoted.

Marriage, family size and sex preference

In terms of marriage and family size, he noted that in the old days, people married at a later age than was now the case. Men had to be ordained at the age of 20 and spend some time in the monkhood before getting married, and they usually married by the time they were 25 or older. At present, the average age at marriage was lower, i.e. a little over 20. Without family planning, couples of the older generations usually had six or seven children, compared to the present family size of two or three children. The smaller family size at present was due to the acceptance of family planning, and the most popular method was the pill. In his younger days, male children were preferred for religious reasons, but nowadays such a preference for sons was not strong, as people were more concerned about the size of the family and generally aware that the larger the number of children, the more economic hardship they were likely to face.

People's organizations at village level

Regarding grassroots organizations, there were none in the old days. People just helped each other when there were problems, and actually did not face any large-scale problems that would affect most of them or even the nation, Headman Phraew asserted. At present, there were two organizations: the Housewives' Group for Development and the Support Group for National Security.

The housewives' group had been established in June 1994 and was actually a savings co-operative that aimed at self-help and solving the problems of the villagers as a group. It had 172 members, all of them women. The Division of Agricultural Extension of Ranong province and the village administrative organization, which both assisted the villagers in occupational problems and development efforts, supported the group. There were meetings of housewives and their spouses to discuss familial and communal problems and ways and means to solve them with as little help from outside as possible. The structure of the Housewives' Group for Development was formal and consisted of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, a committee, an accountant and the members. Two activities that had been carried out were an informal education programme to generate information on fishery and a programme to save water and dig water wells. The first programme had been abandoned after the Zeta monsoon due to lack of time and will to organize, and the second programme was still uncompleted due to lack of funds to dig wells.

The Support Group for National Security had been established as recently as March 1998 by the Fourth Army and consisted in 71 men and 54 women. Headman Phraew felt that it was a useful organization, because it would lead to a wider participation of people than would the housewives' group. The support group was to assist villagers in farming, cattle raising and fishery, but would also remind them that they must try to help themselves first. Headman Phraew added that national security too was very important, especially in these parts, considering the ways the crews of Burmese patrol boats treated Thai fisherfolk.

When asked whether there was any plan to organize occupational groups for self-help and development, he stated that there had been an attempt to organize a group of fishermen a few years ago. However, because of the Zeta monsoon, fisherfolk were discouraged and with the economic hardship that followed, they had been too preoccupied with the survival of their families to organize as a group. Nonetheless, the desire was still there.

Village problems

Asked what were the main problems in the village, the headman said that they related to fishery activities and were also a national security concern. A number of fishermen were caught for ransom and had to pay B3 000–5 000 each. If they could not pay, their boats were confiscated. Seven years earlier, a fisherwoman had been raped, and in December 1997, seven fishermen were caught in Burmese waters. Thanks to the intervention of the Fourth Army, they had all been released. Asked if the fishermen trespassed into Burmese waters deliberately, he said it was necessary for them to do so because they were poor and there was not enough fish to catch in Thai waters to make a living.

Another problem was the increase of the village population due to both natural growth and illegal immigration of Burmese fishermen and their families. This, combined with the decrease in fishery resources and with natural disasters, made it more difficult for everyone to make ends meet.

Second informant

The interview with the female informant of the same generation (Kim, 57 years of age) showed that she had similar perceptions in every aspect, even though her knowledge was understandably not as extensive as that of the first male informant.

She too said that previously the main occupations were agriculture and then fishery. Now, occupations were more diverse because agriculture and fishing did not bring in income as easily as in the past. The majority of the villagers were employed in the city or around the district.

Like the first informant, she said that the quality of life in the old days was much better. Life was easy then and there was no need for women to do extra work because one income earner in the family was enough. Fishermen's wives, however, did process small shrimps into paste for consumption, and some did go out fishing with their husbands. Women now needed to go out to work as employees to supplement the household income. Even though there were many more public utilities at present, there were too many people and it was difficult to earn a decent living due to low income and the high cost of basic necessities.

In terms of income distribution, she believed that in the past, about five percent of the families were materially poor, but families did help one another. In fact, she felt it was difficult to differentiate the economic status of families in the past: they were all the same, more or less. She perceived that there was now a higher proportion of the poor than when she was young.

Coastal resources had diminished to a great extent. Wild animals and mangrove forests were abundant in the past. Now, there were no more wild animals, and most of the mangrove had been destroyed. Efforts to recover mangrove forests were not enough to bring back past luxuriance.

Regarding the age at marriage, she said that it used to be well over 20, but now it was lower. Families in the past were much larger, seven or eight children compared to two or three these days. It was only natural that there used to be a higher proportion of the young than of the aged, whereas now you got the impression it was the other way round.

Third informant

Sontaya Boonraksa is 31 years old and a lorry driver. He said that in the past, families in Sai Dang engaged in agriculture or fishery. For the past four or five years, the main occupation had been employment in transport, communications and freezing works. The change in the occupational structure was due to the difficulty among fishing families to derive sufficient income from fishing within Thai waters. This led to the need to fish in Burmese waters, which was unlawful and dangerous. Thus quite a number of fisherfolk had given up fishing to find employment elsewhere. The change was also due to the draughts, the monsoon, as well as the lack of capital, as farming needed one or two years at least before produce could be harvested.

Fishing in the past was a self-sufficient subsistence occupation as fish were abundant and there were hardly any costs involved. Fisherfolk used such simple gear as hand push nets for small shrimps, push nets, hooks, surrounding nets, and other handmade gear to catch crabs. At present, there were long lines and crab traps, as well as coastal aquaculture of shellfish and crab. There were hardly any fish left in Thai waters. Because of the difficulty to survive economically through fishing and coastal aquaculture, parents tried very hard to give their children as many chances as they could afford to have them complete higher education, so that they would not have to take up fishing for a living. He understood that in the future the hardships associated with fishing as an occupation would increase, as fishery resources had been diminishing drasti cally.

As to the role of women, in the past fishermen's wives helped process the day's catch, made shrimp paste and selected and sold the bigger fishes. Farmers' wives helped their husbands with farming. At present, most women and men in Sai Dang were unemployed, because fish freezing factories preferred to hire Burmese labour, which came cheaper.

In the past, it was difficult to tell the rich from the poor, as all families were more or less the same, economically speaking, because natural resources were then more than sufficient in relation to the population. He perceived that there were at present about 30 percent poor families, 50 percent middle-income families and 20 percent well-to-do families. The differentiation came about with the change from subsistence to a monetary economy and the fact that there were now unemployment and draughts, as already mentioned.

As for natural resources and the state of the coastal environment, Sontaya remembered seeing wild animals as a child and being told that before he was born, villagers used only small patches of the mangrove forests. However, as far back as he could remember, mangrove forests had been in a continuous state of decline, qualitatively and quantitatively. Now that there was this Royal Project to conserve and grow more mangrove forests, maybe they would, in the long run, escape total destruction.

Age at marriage, family size, and sex preference regarding the progeny, had also changed. In the past, the lowest age at marriage was 18, but the usual age was over 20. Nowadays, the majority married before the age of 20. The family size in the past was seven or eight children, compared to two or three now. This was due to the promotion of family planning by the Ministry of Public Health and to the general belief of parents that having fewer children would give them a better chance to attain a higher level of schooling.

Fourth informant

Kosum Chiaochan, a 35-year-old woman selling food for a living, said that in the past the two main occupations were fishing and agriculture, with about half of the families engaged in either occupation. At present, the main occupation had changed to employment in various activities. Few families engaged in fishing or agriculture any longer, due to high costs and low returns. Farming now was mixed farming of stink bean, durian and coffee.

People in Sai Dang these days, she said, had a negative attitude toward fishing as their main occupation, which had not been the case in the past. Fisherfolk then did not need to have lots of costly gear or to go far out at sea to catch enough fish to eat or sell. Now the catch was not worth the costs, or the risk of venturing into Burmese waters. She believed fisherfolk would eventually have to change their occupation.

The role of women had also changed, even during her lifetime. Her perception of the changes was similar to the three other informants - women nowadays had to participate more in economic activities to obtain extra income for the family. In the past, they did not need to work outside the home as one income earner earned enough to feed the family. She pointed out, however, that in the case of fishermen's wives, it was actually the other way round: most of them no longer went out fishing with their husbands, because of the risks associated with the Thai-Burmese frictions.

As for the economic status of families, Kosum shared Sontaya's and Kim's perception that, in the past, all families were in the same boat, as it were, and it was hardly possible to say which were rich and which poor. At present, she felt that maybe 10 percent of the families were poor, 5 percent were rich and the rest were in between.

Regarding coastal resources and the state of the coastal environment, mangrove forests used to be plentiful, but now they were much reduced and deteriorated. One factor had been the use of mangrove wood for charcoal, which was now prohibited.

In terms of marriageable age and family size, her answers were similar to those of the other informants.

Interviews in Koh Maphrao village, Phuket province

First informant

Nab Petdee, a 61-year-old imam, had the following perceptions regarding life in his village.

Occupational and socio-economic profile

The main occupation of the families in Koh Maphrao had always been fishing. Agriculture had always been less important. There were now rubber trees, which had long since replaced coconuts. He believed that 60 percent of the families engaged in fishing and 40 percent in rubber growing.

All the families were of the Islamic faith and all spoke the Southern Thai dialect. The children attended Thai elementary school on the island and had to go to the main island (Phuket) for higher education. The younger women did not observe the religious tenets very seriously, but the older generation did. For example, he said, it was sinful to use contraceptives, but the younger women used them nonetheless.

Fishery as an occupation had always been well accepted. He himself had started to go out at sea with his father to fish when he was only ten. In those days you used only hook, long line and fish trap, and there was no aquaculture. Now, there were gill nets, sand whiting gill nets, long lines for rays, and coastal aquaculture (green mussels, cage culture of prawn, grouper, snapper or sea bass). Coastal aquaculture had only been introduced by the Department of Fisheries three or four years earlier. In the past, marine resources were abundant, and thus it did not take long to gather enough fish. Now, fishermen had to go further and further out because of less fish yet more boats. Nonetheless, even if the catches were less abundant than in the past, they fetched higher prices, which still made the occupation a profitable one.

Role of women

Traditionally, a woman's place was in the home, cooking, cleaning and looking after her brood and her man. There was no need for women to do any work outside the home because food was easy to find and life was easy. Now, however, women were more involved in economic activities. Those who worked engaged mainly in tapping rubber trees and processing latex into unsmoked sheets, or were hired to repair or make gill nets. They also collected shellfish at low tide. Some went out fishing with their father or husband, while others helped select and clean the green mussels or were hired to do so.

Income distribution

For this informant, economic status was measured in terms of land ownership. He believed that in the past, 20 to 30 percent of the families were poor, about 60 percent were getting by and the rest were well off. At present, the families in Koh Maphrao as a whole were better off economically: about 10 percent were poor, 40 percent were earning enough to live on and 50 percent were rather well off, with rubber orchards and more than one boat.

State of the coastal environment

The wild boars, mouse deer and monkeys that used to roam the island were now a thing of the past. Twenty years ago, the mangrove was almost completely untouched: only a small proportion of it was cut down to build houses. A decade ago, there was noticeably less mangrove forest because quite a bit of it had been cut down for charcoal. He believed that now there was only about 30 percent of the mangrove cover left.

Marriage, family size and sex preference

In his days women had seven or eight children, but now they had two or three. People used to marry when they were about 20, but now they married even younger. He believed getting married at too young an age should not be condoned, as the couples were not mature enough and thus were likely to create family problems. As for sex preference for one's children, people of his generation preferred sons to daughters, because once married, daughters would leave their parents. He did not think this mattered much any longer, as both male and female children would leave home after higher education anyway.

He did not believe that the increase in population would weaken food security. For him, a larger population only meant that more efforts had to be made to obtain food from the sea.

People's organizations

There were none in the past, but now there were three organizations: a Savings Group for Occupational Purposes, a Demonstration Centre for Marketing and a Coastal Fishing Group.

The savings group had been established in 1986 by a district development worker, village leaders and villagers. It started with 48 members. Its objectives were to implement the government's policy to establish savings groups, and to raise capital to loan to members for occupational investment and for the welfare of their families. At present, there were 140 members (89 men and 51 women). There were two group activities. The first was to collect monthly savings from members. The total monthly savings of B6,400 were deposited at Krung Thai Bank and the savings account of the group amounted so far to B682,130. As of June 1998, 52 members had received loans amounting altogether to B439,000. Some of these loans were for fishing activities. The group was considered a strong savings group with clear-cut rules closely followed by the members.

The Demonstration Centre for Marketing was an extension of the savings group. Its purpose was to provide basic daily commodities to members. The working capital was raised through the sale of shares worth B100 each. So far there were 339 shares. Profit was redistributed to members once a year.

The Coastal Fishing Group had been established in 1994 with 42 fishermen. The membership fee was B15. The members could ask for a loan of fishing gear such as sand whiting nets and could also apply for loans from a revolving fund provisioned by selling shares.

Village problems

There were no major problems except for the facts that there was no electricity and that the children who went to school on the main island, Phuket, had to walk in the mud at low tide in the morning to get on the boats to the main island.

Second informant

Hubsa Pantip, 61, owns a grocery store and is a devout Thai Muslim. She said that the main income of Koh Maphrao households came from fishing and the secondary income from rubber orchards. She added that most men engaged in fishery and most women in rubber tapping and processing. Rubber trees had been introduced into Koh Maphrao some twenty years earlier.

Fishing as an occupation had changed little. The gear had increased from only long lines to gill nets, surrounding nets, long lines for rays, and sand whiting gill nets. The boats had changed from unpowered to outboard-powered and had grown bigger, as they had to go out further and further away from the shore. And a few years ago, coastal aquaculture had been introduced (green mussel and cage culture of grouper or shrimp).

Regarding the role of women, she had the same perception as our first informant. In the past, women played the traditional role in the home, but nowadays, they also earned extra household income by rubber tree tapping and latex processing. The tapping took place from about 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and another three hours were spent processing the latex. Women in fishery households also repaired nets and made new ones when necessary or hired other women to do so. She believed women now worked more than men, who just fished and sold the catch at Sapum pier. “The men go out to sea at about 4 a.m. to catch sand whiting and other fish, come home around three in the afternoon and do nothing else but rest and socialize,” she claimed.

In terms of income distribution, she believed there was not, and never had been, much difference among the families. “Every family can afford to have fish to eat and every family has similar household conditions.” The small differences she saw were the amount of money they had and the land they owned. However, she said that most families were middle-income families, and that they could afford to buy as many commodities as other households had. The only question was whether they really wanted to keep up with the Joneses or not. Her perception of poverty was lack of home and land. ‘Middle-income’ to her meant owning some land (five to 10 rai), but no savings. The better-off families were perceived as having more land of their own and some savings.

Regarding the state of the coastal environment, she said that trees in mangrove forests used to be very big. At present, the mangrove was in a sorry state, as many trees had been hacked down illegally by people from nearby villages. She too mentioned the previous existence of wild animals such as wild boars and monkeys that were now extinct.

Marriage age, family size and sex preference for one's children had changed over time. In the past women married at 15 or 16, but now they married at an older age. Families used to have five or six children; now they had a few children only and started using contraceptives after having their first child, as more children also meant greater poverty and lesser ability to have them carry on beyond primary schooling. Unlike the first informant, she believed that daughters were preferred because at least the youngest female child would stay with her parents after marriage.

Third informant

Yunobe Petdee is a 37-year-old fisherman and the village headman. He shared our second informant's opinion regarding the occupations and income of families in Koh Maphrao. In the past, fishing was the main economic activity and the main source of income, but now most families engaged both in fishing and in tending rubber orchards. One family usually engaged in both, with the man fishing and the woman tapping rubber trees and processing the latex. This was the main sexual division of labour in the family in terms of occupation.

Fishing as an occupation had always been well accepted. The men were the main source of labour, while the women played the role of helpers. For example, in using the heavy sand whiting gill net, the men would handle the net while the women would keep the boat on course. This had been the case both in the past and at present. In the last twenty years, there had been significant changes in terms of the quantity of fish available and caught, fishing areas, and fish prices. The fish were less available these days, so less were being caught, but prices were higher, as were the costs. Nonetheless, fishing brought in sufficient income when supplemented by the women's earnings from rubber orchards. Fishing was a good occupation as you were independent and free to work or call it a day when you felt like it.

In terms of income distribution, Headman Yunobe said that about 20 percent of the families were poor, about 50 percent were average and about 30 percent were well off. For him, too, the criterion of economic status was land ownership. In the past, he said, there had been little economic differentiation as the economy was more of the subsistence type.

He also shared the opinion of the first two informants regarding the role of women, i.e. in the past women played only the traditional role at home, except for some fishermen's wives who also went out fishing with their husbands. He added that this practice reduced labour costs and thus increased total earnings. At present, besides the traditional role and economic roles related to rubber orchards, women in fishery households also repaired or made nets, or both. If they were able to make their own net, they would save about B400. As the nets needed to be changed twice a month, the fishing families whose women could make their own nets could save at least B800 a month. A woman hired to make nets would earn about B400 for a sand whiting gill net and about B300 for a net to catch swimming crabs. Headman Yunobe too thought that these days, women worked harder than men did.

Regarding the state of the coastal environment, he was very conscious of the need for coastal resource conservation. In his words: “The changes have been caused mostly by boats using push nets, which destroy the coastal seagrass and other resources on the seabed. Thus, our next generations won't be able to survive by being fishermen. Moreover, there has been a significant loss of mangrove. Just imagine if five rai of mangrove are destroyed, how many fishery habitats will also be lost and how many species will be lost or decimated. Small shrimps and crabs do need the mangrove to grow and survive.”

Concerning age at marriage, family size, and sex preference for one's children, he stated that age at marriage was about 20 in the past, and about 18 at the minimum, whereas now the average age tended to go up because most teenagers were still at school. He shared the perception of the first two informants regarding the change in family size: from six or seven children at least on average in the past to two or three per family now. He thought that daughters were preferred, as they were less likely to misbehave and worry their parents.

Regarding the relationship between population and food, the headman stated that he was well aware that as the population grew, more food resources were needed, and that without determined efforts to increase fish stocks, in the future fishing families would not be able to survive.

Fourth informant

Nidi Nokda - a 38-year-old housewife and rubber tapper and processor - shared the perception of all three previous informants in the village regarding the main income and occupation of the majority of households, i.e. fishing. The secondary occupation, she said, had to do with rubber orchards, either as owner, share worker or employee.

Fishery had always been considered a good occupation, because it was independent and brought in better and steadier income than other lines of work. In the past, there was only capture fishery, but now coastal aquaculture had also been introduced. There was also cage culture of snapper, grouper and king prawn, and culture of green mussels and bloody cockles. In the past, long lines and surrounding nets made from cotton were used. Fishing gear now were mostly sand whiting gill nets, and also shrimp gill nets and crab gill nets. These days, the nets were made of nylon with narrower mesh, which was an improvement, because nets made from nylon could be repaired whereas those made from cotton could not. She did not think the smaller mesh size was a good thing, though, but she had to admit it was necessary because the fish were now of smaller size and there was also a need to catch them in sufficient quantity both for consumption and for sale. During the rainy season, fishing had to take place close to shore in case of storms. During the dry season, an outing could yield more catch as the boats could operate further out, as far as Yao and Kai islands. Because of the reduction of marine resources during the past twenty years, the catches were poorer, but operating costs were high and getting higher. This, however, was compensated for by higher prices for the fish, and fisherfolk could still make a profit.

The quality of life was good twenty years ago but was no longer as good, because of the need to struggle more to earn a living and get the children an education. However, no family was destitute; there was always enough seafood for everyone if you were willing to collect shellfish at low tide, which was a woman's task.

Women's role had not changed during her lifetime, the housewife-cum-rubber tapper said. Women did the household chores, and if needed, engaged in work related to rubber orchards. Fishermen's wives repaired the nets or made new ones. Twenty years ago, women collected shellfish at low tide to eat at home, but now they also collected them for sale. She herself worked in a rubber orchard that belonged to her mother and had a share of the profits. She earned about B200 per day from rubber tapping and latex processing, but the income was not steady, as the work could be done only during the three months of the rainy reason and only on those mornings when it did not rain.

This informant classified economic status and economic differentiation in terms of occupation, income, household size and assets. She said that it the past there were more poor families than at present. She estimated that now some five percent of the families were poor, being employed in rubber orchards, having no land and with gross earnings of about B3,000 per month. Middle-income families, earning B6,000–7,000 a month, would represent about 15 percent. The rest (80 percent) were the better-off families, earning about B10,000–25,000 a month. Poor families usually borrowed from moneylenders on the mainland, at an interest rate of about 10 per cent per month.

As for the state of the coastal environment, she and her husband, who was present during the interview, were well aware of the importance of coastal resource conservation. Besides, she was the only informant who talked about the state of coral reefs. When she was young, there had been no damage or reduction of the coral reefs, which are located on the eastern side of the island. The mangrove forests had not shrunk to any significant extent because trespassers were afraid of being caught. There was no use of cyanide to poison fish of all sizes, only the occasional use of an herb to stun them and then only the ones of suitable size were collected. She believed that this was one way to increase the fish resources. Dynamite was not used at Koh Maphrao either, as villagers knew it would destroy the coral reefs. Her awareness of the need to protect juvenile fish was also apparent. She said that most people were willing to go further away from the coast for a number of reasons and one of them was to let the small fish grow and multiply for the next generations to harvest.

Regarding age at marriage, family size and sex preference for one's children, she and her husband agreed that women married later than they used to. In the past, they tied the knot when they were about 15 or 16, but now they did so at 18 or thereabouts. She too believed that the suitable age for marriage should be about 20. In terms of family size, the average number of children per family in the past was six or seven. At present, family planning was widely accepted despite the religious teaching against it. Parents in the past preferred daughters because they were more docile and would help with the work round the house. Now, they preferred sons, as sons would help with the work outside the home and the upkeep of daughters had become more expensive, especially in terms of clothing.

On the topic of population and food, she did not perceive any negative correlation between these two variables. To her, more children merely meant fishing more earnestly. She did believe that extra work would bring in sufficient seafood for larger fishing families.

Fifth informant

Because of the difference in perception among the informants in Koh Maphrao regarding sex preference for the progeny, it was decided that interviewing a public health officer working full-time there might throw some light on the subject.

Pirapong Cheep-lek (31 years of age) gave much useful information and insights. He said that the present average family size was of two children, but that the desired family size varied between two and three children. He was not sure about the sex preference in general, but thought that sons would be preferred because once grown up they would be better able to help with fishing activities than daughters would.

Concerning changes in the state of the coastal environment, he said that fisherfolk now went out much further away from the coast, because of more competition and of the fact that the fish near the shore could not grow quickly enough to be worth catching. He talked about the traditional practice of fisherfolk at Koh Maphrao of not catching certain species of fish during their spawning period. This, to him, was an indirect way of conserving marine resources. He said that one fisherman had told him he preferred to go further out at sea and thus incur higher fuel costs than to catch small fishes, thus given them a chance to grow to be caught by his children in the future. While small-scale fisherfolk were conscious of the need to conserve marine resources, the large-scale commercial fishing operations using push nets within the 3-km protected zone were the main factor accounting for the rapid depletion of these resources.

As for mangrove forests, there used to be illegal cutting of wood to make charcoal. However, after fishery department officials had explained that the right to use forest land would not be granted to private interests and that there was a need for all concerned to conserve and rehabilitate the mangrove, and after village leaders had made a real effort to raise people's awareness of such need, he felt that the villagers had stopped cutting trees in mangrove forests.

At present, about 70 percent of the women married between the ages of 18 and 22, with 20 as the average. No child of less than twelve months of age had died in 1997. There were no children under four years of age with third-degree malnutrition, but three children suffered from second-degree malnutrition.

Family planning was well accepted, the most popular methods being the pill and injections, respectively. The decision to use contraceptives was made by the wife for the purpose of child spacing, the interval between births being of about two years on average.

The average household income of all the families was around B7,000 per month, and 70 percent of the households earned about that much, 10 percent were poor and about 20 percent were well-off by local standards. His classification was based on his house visits, observation of household assets, conversations with household members, and the quality of their clothing.

Regarding population growth and food availability, he felt that the older generations were not aware of the inverse relationship between the two. They would keep saying, “Fish have always been there in the sea and animals have always been there in the forest.” The younger generations did not seem to directly relate food availability and population size either, but considered a large family as an economic burden. They did not think in terms of food security, of more mouths to feed, but rather of expenses for clothing and education. They seemed to believe that, no matter how many children, parents would be able to provide sufficient food for them.

Further information at the provincial level

Before the field surveys and interviews, information was obtained from a number of government officials responsible for fishery and coastal resources in Ranong and Phuket provinces.

In Ranong, the provincial fishery officer said that the depletion of marine resources in the Andaman Sea had been caused by several factors. The first factor was the prevalent illegal use of mechanized push nets and trawl nets within three kilometres of the coastline. This destroyed seagrass beds, juvenile fish, spawning fish and coral reefs, and damaged small-scale surrounding nets.

The second factor was the rapid increase of large-scale commercial fishing, with boats of 50 GT and over equipped with sophisticated technology to locate and catch schools of fish, including juvenile commercial fish. Anchovy purse seines caught not only anchovies but also juvenile mackerels. Clam dredges damaged the ecosystem and polluted the water by leaving behind rotten fish and clams.

The third factor was the inability of provincial authorities to control the number and operations of large-scale commercial vessels. Their inability stemmed from the fact that the Department of Fisheries was responsible for the licensing of fishing gear, while the Harbour Department was responsible for the registration of fishing craft. For instance, there was gross under-licensing of fishing gear. In 1997, 74 boats using push nets were registered in the province, but the fishery officer in charge of statistics estimated that there were 100 to 200 boats with push nets that were not registered. However, it was noted that fishing gear could be registered in any coastal province, not necessarily in the province where boats with such gear operated.

The fourth factor was urbanization, which resulted in sewage from household use being released untreated into the sea. When asked if there was any inspection and monitoring of wastewater treatment at shrimp farms, the provincial fishery officer said that he had just been transferred to Ranong, but since his arrival, his office had not looked into this aspect, because of lack of personnel.

“A large area of mangrove forests in Ranong has been replaced by shrimp farms”, Sophon Havanond, head of the Research Centre on Mangrove Forests, was quoted in the local newspaper as saying. “Further replacement of mangrove forests by shrimp farms, which not only destroy the forests, the fish habitats therein and subsequent stock of fish, but also pollute the coastal seawater, must immediately be stopped” (Siang Ranong, 6/12/97–1/1/98, p. 10). He had added that recently a large number of people had illegally turned the mangrove areas into shrimp farms.

The provincial head of the Ministry of Industry was responsible only for the treatment of water used in fishmeal factories, freezing works and ice-making factories. The official showed a set of statistics that indicated that the inspection of water treatment in those factories was sporadic and made only during the dry season when the seawater level was low. Regarding wastewater from hospitals, he said there was no inspection or monitoring though there should be. When asked about the inspection of wastewater treatment in hotels, he stated that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Health and of the Provincial Administrative Office. He added that the inspection of water treatment at shrimp farms was the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries, but as far as he knew, there had never been any. What was usually the case was that fishery officials and the police would go to a shrimp farm only when the owner of an adjacent farm accused the former of releasing untreated wastewater into the sea. Ranong people's opinion was that the main problem regarding seawater pollution was the release into the sea of untreated water from over 300 shrimp farms.

A meeting with the head of the Provincial Administrative Office did not yield any useful data on the inspection of wastewater treatment at hotels, except that small, older hotels (with 30 to 40 rooms) were known to be unlikely to treat their used water. However, the new, larger hotels (80 rooms and over) had to have a method of water treatment acceptable to the provincial representative of the Public Works Department of the Ministry of Interior before permission for the hotel to be built was granted.

A conservation with two commercial fishermen yielded the opinion that the depletion of marine resources in the Andaman Sea was rapid during the 1960s and 1970s due to the introduction of trawl nets and push nets. The older of the two, a man in his fifties, said that the idea of extending from three to 10 km from the coast the expanse of water prohibited to boats using push nets and trawl nets for the benefit of small-scale fisherfolk would not work at Ranong, because the seabed was too steep. The younger fisherman said that the human population and fishery resources were not growing at the same pace. Sustainable development of fishing activities did not depend on slowing down population growth but on finding efficient ways and means of increasing fishery resources within Thai waters. At present, while sustainability could not be achieved, one solution already practised by large-scale fishing operations was to buy the right to fish in Burmese waters.

In Phuket, the provincial fishery officer said that the problems related to fishing activities did not differ from those of Ranong. They were the increasingly frequent trespassing of boats with push nets and trawl nets into the 3-km protected area along the shoreline and the rapid disappearance of mangrove forests. Boats with push nets operating illegally were hard to catch and even when they were caught, the judicial process took too long and punishment was infrequent or too lenient. There were also the problems of water pollution caused by shrimp farming and of the high soil salinity of rubber tree orchards close to the shrimp farms further up behind the coastal land areas. In addition, villagers whose households were close to the new shrimp farms around the Phangnga Bay Hotel had started to complain that their well water had become brackish. The last problem mentioned was the almost total dependence of small-scale fisherfolk on the owners of the fish piers, who were both providers of capital and buyers of the catches.

An official at the Provincial Fishery Office said that there were three main problems these days. The first was encroachment into mangrove areas by the Phuket municipality, the Fish Marketing Organization and a school. The second was the old problem of illegal take-over of mangrove forests by shrimp farms. The last was the failure of the Royal Forestry Department to replant mangrove forests during the past three years, which had led to a 25-percent budget cut.

An official from the Ministry of Industry said that there had been little inspection of air and water pollution caused by industrial facilities. Nonetheless, newly registered factories were to be inspected and monitored every month. Samples of wastewater from each factory were being collected for later examination. According to this official, about 25 percent of factories of all types within the municipality had acceptable methods of wastewater treatment.

Summary and discussion

The interviews with a number of province-level government officials were an attempt to identify the factors affecting the depletion of fishery resources and the use of coastal resources. The consensus was that the depletion of fishery resources was mainly due to the excessive number of highly efficient, large-scale commercial fishing operations. In addition, there was the prevalent, if illegal, use of push nets and trawls within the protected 3-km-deep coastal area and the inability of the powers that be to stop the practice. The Department of Fisheries and the Harbour Department were unable or unwilling to co-operate to control the number of fishing boats, and consequently, there was a lack of accurate information about the extent of illegal harvests. There was also a consensus that the depletion of mangrove forests was mainly due to two factors. The first was the unwise decision of a previous government to grant usufruct rights over mangrove forests to private investors, despite the proviso that the forests would have to be replanted. The second was government promotion of shrimp farming for export, which had led to illegal encroachment upon mangrove forests by shrimp farms. The expansion of shrimp farming, in turn, was the main factor accounting for coastal water pollution. The natural growth of tourism further impinged on coastal land, including mangrove forests, and destroyed coral reefs. The current promotion of tourism would but exacerbate the problems.

The interviews carried out with individual villagers did not yield similar responses regarding the depletion of fishery resources and mangrove forests. Out of six villagers with any opinion on mangroves, three only mention woodcutting by villagers for charcoal or house building, and only two specifically blame shrimp farms and the like. The remaining topics covered are summarized in the following paragraphs. It should be noted that the interviews were based on individual perceptions, which may not accurately reflect reality, and that they focused on the changes that had occurred during the past twenty to fifty years in the two fishing communities.

The economy

Both villages used to depend on a subsistence economy, now replaced by a monetary economy. The village of Sai Dang in the province of Ranong used to derive its income mainly from agriculture, followed by fishery. Over time, natural calamities have gradually reduced the profitability of both occupations, more farmers and fisherfolk had turned to employment in various activities in town, and the economy is now more diversified. In the village of Koh Maphrao in Phuket province, fishing has always been the main occupation, both well accepted and profitable. However, families are not as segregated in terms of occupation as in Sai Dang. A family usually engages both in fishery and in rubber tapping and processing. In the past, it was difficult to differentiate the economic status of the families both in Sai Dang and in Koh Maphrao. At present, the economic status in Sai Dang is classified in terms of occupation, income and ownership of assets, and fishing families are the worst off. The economic status of the families in Koh Maphrao is classified in terms of land ownership and occupation, and fishing families are believed to be better off than non-fishing families. The role of women in both communities has expanded: they are more involved in the economy, as extra income earners.


Sai Dang villagers are Buddhists, whereas Koh Maphrao villagers are Muslims. People in both communities speak the Southern Thai dialect. In both villages, the older generations have only four to six years of schooling, but the education level is rising among the younger generations. The population of the two villages must have grown rapidly until the last 10 to 15 years. Previously, the average number of children per family was six or seven, whereas the present size is about two or three, due to family planning. Perceptions regarding age at marriage differ and cannot be reconciled. It may however be conjectured that Sai Dang, as a Buddhist community, has a preference for male children. Direct questioning in Koh Maphrao yields inconclusive responses from both generations and both genders, regardless of whether they refer to past or present preference. In the old days, there was no people's organization in either village, because people had fewer problems and the community took care of them. There are now formal people's organizations, usually occupation-based, promoted and supported by government organizations. They tend to be non-sustainable without outside support, due to lack of knowledge and funding. There is a desire to have a fishermen's group at Sai Dang.

Population and food

In the past, the abundance of fishery and forestry resources in both villages did not raise the question of imbalance between population and food. At present, the interviewees in Sai Dang are aware of such an imbalance, unlike those at Koh Maphrao, who still think that there are enough fish in the sea and that, if greater efforts are made, there will always be enough to feed even large families. Such a view may be due to their high level of awareness of the need to increase fishery resources for the next generations and to their efforts to sustain them.

In conclusion, the interviews indicate that the villagers of Koh Maphrao would be more ready to embrace the notion of having an integrated coastal zone management programme than would those of Sai Dang. They are more aware of, and more concerned with, marine coastal resource conservation and already have a strong desire to restock coastal fishery resources. The facts that they belong to a closely knitted community and that they can manage three formal organizations successfully are also in favour of their welcoming such a programme and making it work.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page