Park chief preps Similan Islands for tourist high season

PHUKET: The chief of the Similan Islands Marine National Park is calling for all tour boat operators to register in order to be able to legally enter the park when it reopens on November 1.

Operators found entering the park without permits will be fined, warned park chief Mana Phermpool.

“So far we have received permit applications from 35 boats. We have not set a limit on the number of permits to be issued, but the boats must meet our qualifications,” Mr Mana said.

“The boats must have adequate on-board waste-water treatment systems to allow safe discharge into park waters, and there must be no oil leakage from the boats,” he said.

Before the park reopens, officers will survey coral reefs to assess any monsoon-season damage and determine which reefs are fit for diving this year.

Several reefs were closed to divers last year so that coral could recover from bleaching.

“When the weather settles down, we will survey the damage to coral reefs and check which have recovered enough to allow diving and which need time to recover,” Mr Mana said.

He will meet tour operators in the third week of October to inform them of available dive sites and remind them of the park regulations, he said.

To ensure compliance during the coming season, park officers will conduct random boat inspections.

“Any boat operators found feeding the fish, disturbing marine life or dumping untreated waste-water into the sea will be fined and their permits canceled. I would like them to be friends with our natural resources and to let damaged areas recover as soon as possible,” said Mr Mana.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

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