Fellow Since 2014
The Federation of Southern Fisherfolk (Thailand)
This profile was prepared when Wichoksak Ronnarongpairee was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Wichoksak Ronnarongpairee is creating a new market of sustainably captured seafood, to ensure the economic survival of small-scale fishers who are the most motivated protectors of Thailand’s coastal resources. Previously dismissed as scattered and invisible producers, small-scale fishers are now taking ownership of the seafood market and branding their products to create added value based on sustainable fishing practices. Wichoksak has developed pilot models of community fishing ports along Thailand’s coastline, owned and operated by local fishers. He initiated a certification system for sustainably caught seafood, the first of its kind in the Thai domestic market. He is also creating consumer demand by generating widespread public recognition about the valuable role of small-scale fishers both as producers of quality seafood and as proactive guardians of coastal resources, through seafood trade fairs, fishing derbies and online campaigns. As a result of Wichoksak’s efforts with consumer markets and mass media, there is a growing public interest in safe and sustainable fishing, pressuring large-scale fishers to develop new products of sustainably captured seafood. To ensure long-term competitiveness, Wichoksak has established the first national trade association of small-scale fishers in Thailand, which functions in harmony with small-scale fishers’ trade associations set up in local communities. With economic and civic presence, small-scale fishers are beginning shift the direction of Thailand’s coastal resource management policies, including the successful campaign led by small-scale fishers to halt the use of destructive fishing equipment and the first local government ordinances declaring coastal preservation zones for sustainable fishery.