Thailand is located in the Indochina peninsula of Southeast Asia and covers an area of nearly 514,000 km2. It is surrounded by the countries Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. In the west, Thailand is bordered by the Andaman Sea and in the southeast by the Gulf of Thailand, making up a total coastline of 3,219 km. The country is divided into four main zones: the central plains of the Chao Phraya River; the 300m high northeast plateau; the valley and mountains of Northern Thailand; and the rainforested southern peninsula. Due to these diverse landscapes, Thailand has made remarkable progress in social and economic development, moving from a low-income country to an upper-income country in less than a generation. Near the coast, the land is qualified for brackish and marine aquaculture. In the coastal regions, there are around 21,000 farms, covering a total area of 47,291 ha. Until 2012, the country was the leading exporter for shrimp, however, due to a big drop in production because of disease outbreaks it currently holds the fifth position. Besides shrimp, tilapia is also an important cultured species in Thailand and accounts for almost 50% of the freshwater produced fish. Regarding wild capture, Thailand is currently the main exporter for tuna in the world, with a global market share of 20% for all tuna related products; for the canned export the global market share is 33%. The tuna canning industry is dominated by a couple of large companies, of which Thai Union was the biggest.

In Thailand

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Species in Thailand

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Seafood sector

Thailand has distinguished itself from other Asian seafood producing countries by the early development of machine-processed seafood. This early development was actually a necessity, as labour costs in Thailand are relatively high compared to other Asian countries. With a production volume of almost 2.5 million tonnes in 2016 FAO (2018), Thailand is the third of the top seafood producing nations in the world. Fishery and aquaculture industry constitutes about 1.2% of the national GDP and 9.9% of the agricultural GDP. The number of people engaged in this sector was estimated at about 2 million, of which 40% are fisherman and fish farmers, and 60% are employed in other related and supporting industries. The produced seafood is either consumed domestically or exported. It is an important source of animal protein, which is reflected in the per capita fish intake, fluctuating between 32 and 42 kg during the past decade. The export value of seafood products almost reached 6 billion US$ in 2017. In recent years the industry has been involved in slavery issues, which gained a lot of western media attention. Therefore the large co-operations have taken initiatives to improve the labour in the Thai seafood sector

Fisheries and aquaculture production

FAO (2018)

Data for aquaculture production in Thailand is acknowledged to be quite accurate as statistics from the Thai Department of Fisheries only 3% deviates from FAO.

Overall, the fisheries sector of Thailand has shown a slight decrease over the last 5 years. The main contributor is

the marine fishery accounting for up to 70%. The sector is divided into larger and small fishing vessels, both combining for about 50.000 vessels. Around 40.000 tonnes of wild capture consists of tuna catch, while the export of tuna is more than ten times higher. A large part of the catch is so-called trash fish. This is a varied composition of fish, which is mainly used for the fish meal industry. This sort of fishery is unsustainable, especially due to the fact that the species composition is variable, which makes it difficult to set measures.

The aquaculture sector has been steadily growing from 2000 onward reaching its maximum output in 2009 of 140,000 tonnes. The years until 2012 the production has been stable around 1.2 mln tonnes. In 2013 the EMS occurred in the shrimp sector, rapidly reducing the total aquaculture output to around 900,000 tonnes. From 2015 onward the aquaculture has been growing again in terms of output, of which is mainly a result of an increase in shrimp culture.

Production per species in 2016 (tonnes)

FAO (2018)

Wild marine fish contributes for almost 50% of all the volume of produced and captured fish combined. Both the cultured crustaceans as the production of freshwater fish contribute respectively for 13% to 16% of the production. While the L. vannamei accounts for the largest volume in the crustacean, for freshwater fish this is tilapia. Oysters and and

cockles contribute to the large volume of mollusks. The farming and wild catch of these mollusks is actually partly sustained by the shrimp industry. The outflow of non-retained nutrients from the shrimp farms enhance the growth of zooplankton and support the growth of the mollusks. Around 80% of the mollusks are distributed on the domestic market.

Export markets

Source: Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre,

The United States and Japan have been very important and stable export markets for Thailand over the years and account for 45% of the value in 2017. Within the EU Italy and the United Kingdom account for more than 50% of the market share. Germany, the Netherlands and France contributed around 25%. The export value had been decreasing over the last few years but picked up again around 2016

and 2017. The main reason for the decline was the reduced shrimp production and export in 2013. With the shrimp production picking up again, exports to the US, Japan and Australia also increased. The exports to the EU are still decreasing. A free trade deal with the EU, which was under negotiation before the military coup in Thailand in May 2014, would be a big boost for Thailand’s shrimp and tuna sectors, as well as generally benefiting the country’s economy. The resumption of trade talks is contingent on democratic elections in Thailand.

Export product composition in 2017 (US$ 000)

Source: Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre,

Thai exports of seafood (including value-added) products have remained stable over the last five years. Prepared or preserved fish are by far the most important export product value-wise but are also gaining importance in terms of volumes. Canned tuna has the largest market share of this category, contributing 24% of the export value in 2017. Other important export products include crustaceans, where prepared and preserved account for the largest value, and molluscs.


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 4 1,300
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 232 NA

Sector support programs

  • Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force

    The aim of the Task Force is obtaining supply chain oversight in people, product and process including supervision, surveillance, inspection, charge, care, government, direction and control. Their strategy focuses on preventing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU).

    CP Foods
  • Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI)

    The Lower Mekong Initiative was set up between foreign Ministers of the Lower Mekong Countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam). They agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of environment, health, education, and infrastructure development. The programs include the development of ‘’Forecast Mekong’’ a predictive modeling tool to illustrate the impact of climate change and other challenges to the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.

    USAID, Ethical Trade
  • Promoting multi-stakeholder contributions to international cooperation on sustainable solutions for aquaculture development in South-East Asia

    The aim of the project is to establish sustainable aquaculture practices that improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental impact. A multi-stakeholder platform – the European-Asian Technology and Innovation platform – is launched to foster international cooperation on sustainable aquaculture between Europe and South-East Asia.

  • Thailand blue swimming crab - bottom gillnet/trap Fishery Improvement Project (FIP)

    The Surat Thani blue swimming crab fishery is an important export product for Thailand with an export value of $60-80 million USD. The objective of this FIP is to achieve a standard necessary for Marine Stewardship Council certification by the end of 2021.

    World Wildlife Fund - Thailand and US
  • Aquaculture Improvement Projects

    SFP offers farmers training and knowledge to help them improve their livelihoods and increase collaboration to manage and improve water quality and reduce incidences of disease outbreaks. SFP are expecting to create a zonal approach to form local management groups for greater sustainability in the whole fish farming environment.

    Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP)
  • MTI Thailand: The Andaman Trawl Fishery Improvement Project

    WWF-Thailand and the Thai Sustainable Fisheries Roundtable (TSFR) are working together towards sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management and production through policy reform with the long-term objective of achieving MSC of ASC certification.

    World Wildlife Fund- Thailand (WWF), Thai Sustainable Fisheries Roundtable (TSFR)
  • The Gulf of Thailand FIP

    The Thai Sustainable Fisheries Roundtable (TSFR) have announced a cooperation with the Thai government to adopt international standards in the Gulf of Thailand. The focus of the project is to improve the efficiency of Thai fisheries management and governance, together with environmental responsibility and transparent traceability throughout the supply chain. The FIP is the first, globally, that will implement the latest version of IFFO Responsible Supply standards.

    TSFR, Thai government, SFP
  • Digital Traceability program to strengthen sustainability efforts

    Thai Union has launched a pilot program to test scalable platforms for electronic Catch Data and Traceability (eCDT) systems to combat IUU fishing from the point of catch, promote worker voice at sea and demonstrate fair labour compliance in Thai fisheries. Thai Union expects this initiative will help developing efficiencies around catch reporting, traceability, business communications and operations management.

    Thai Union, Ethical Trade
  • Thailand Hotspot

    The Freedom Fund aims to reduce the prevalence of forced labour among migrant workers in the Thai seafood industry. Their strategies include: Incentivizing and supporting the private sector to improve transparency and adopt ethical labour practices, strengthening civil society organizations by monitoring the situation on the ground and empowering migrant workers and increasing pressure on the Thai government to reform the regulatory framework, uphold migrant rights and challenge the impunity of traffickers.

    The Freedom Fund
  • Project Issara

    Issara Institute is an independent NGO based in Southeast Asia tackling issues of human trafficking and forced labour through technology, partnership, and innovation. The aim of the project is to identify and address risks of human trafficking and labour abuses in Thailand’s seafood supply chains in a measurable and scalable way.

    Humanity United, United Nations

    The AQUADAPT project aims to assist fish farmers in five Mekong countries to better manage climate-related risks, and thus increasing their capacity to adapt to climate change. The project does this through jointly evaluating and supporting the development or uptake of promising innovations.

    Unit for Social and Environmental Research (USER)
  • Combatting Unacceptable Forms of Work in the Tai Fishing and Seafood Industry

    The EU-funded ILO project works with its partners towards the prevention and reduction of unacceptable forms of work in the Thai fishing and seafood processing sectors.

    International Labour Organization (ILO)