Park boss calls for help in curbing poaching

KRABI: Amarin Intarasombat, the Chief of Koh Lanta Marine National Park, has urged dive operators and other park visitors to notify him immediately if fishing boats are seen in the park.

He made his call after seeing photographs, passed to him by the Gazette and taken by a local dive operator, showing dozens of dead sharks on the deck of a fishing boat in the park.

The dive operator, requesting anonymity, said that, in his estimation, about 30 reef sharks were caught in one night alone around Hin Daeng and Hin Muang in Krabi Province.

The operator commented that the few thousand baht fishermen will receive from the sale of the sharks is nothing compared with the millions spent by visitors who want to see the sharks swimming in their natural habitat – in Thailand’s Marine National Parks.

In the accompanying email to the Gazette the operator wrote, “Divers from all around the world come to Thailand to visit locations such as the Similans, the Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock and fully expect to encounter sharks there.

“After all, they can be observed at many other dive destinations worldwide, such as the Maldives, the Red Sea, in Polynesia and the Great Barrier Reef.

“Yet for four or five years now, whale sharks have not been seen at Richelieu Rock. In addition, reef sharks and leopard sharks are more and more difficult to find in these locations. Tour leaders on dive liveaboard boats have a lot of difficulty explaining away the catastrophic situation to their customers.

“Without strong support to save sharks in Thai waters, any effort to promote Thailand as a worldwide dive destination will be hopeless. Divers are ready to travel and spend a lot of money, but [they will only go to] top-of-the-list destinations where sharks, mantas and other large fish can be seen in water with optimum visibility – and Thailand is dropping down that list at alarming speed.”

K. Amarin commented, “After I get a call, it usually takes about an hour to get to the scene. Fishing in national parks is not allowed, nor is coral collecting. We try to go out and check as much as possible but cannot do so every day.”

Referring to the photographs, he said, “I’m not sure whether these pictures were actually taken in the National Park itself or not. I’ve never known fishing boats to poach there before, but if [they are doing so now] we shall have to clamp down and get stricter.”

Divers and visitors to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang who witness illegal fishing are urged to call K. Amarin at Tel: 01-9680843 or his deputy, Utane Siripuwadol at Tel: 06-7438642 or 03-1735059.

Phuket News

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