Barge damages coral at Racha Island

RAWAI, PHUKET: A barge carrying building material has seriously damaged a patch of coral reef off Koh Racha, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).

Locals reported that the barge, allegedly belonging to Namchai Ocean Transport Company, was being towed ashore at Siam Bay on Koh Racha Yai.

Prachuap Mokharat, a fisheries officer with the DMCR’s regional office in Phuket, led a team of officers to inspect the area on December 4.

The team found the barge had already been dragged to shore. Two tug boats, the Namchai 9 and Namchai 10, were moored nearby but there was no sign of the crew.

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Mr Prachuap said the barge had seriously damaged a 15m by 10m patch of coral about 100m from the shoreline. A large amount of brain coral, finger coral and table coral was destroyed. The team photographed the area as evidence.

Destruction of coral is an offence under the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, Mr Prachuap said adding that the incident has been reported to Chalong Police Inspector Chana Suthimas.

The DMCR will seek to prosecute the barge owner as well as the owner of the hotel for which the building materials were destined.

Chutha Pratheep na Thalang, a member of the Koh Racha Yai Marine Resources Management Committee, said the barge had damaged a large area of coral that would take many years to grow back.

Island residents had previously met with businesspeople to try and agree on measures to protect the local environment, he said.

Mr Chutha said he hoped the authorities would deal with the problem quickly, otherwise it could lead to disputes between locals and businesspeople on the island.

Sophon Sukharin, Deputy Chairman of the Koh Racha Environmental Conservation and Protection Association, said this was not the first time that supply boats had damaged the reefs around the island. If action is not taken it will certainly not be the last, he said.

His group had already met with businesspeople to try and persuade them to unload their barges at Theu Bay instead of Siam Bay, he added.

— Gazette reporter

Phuket News
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