PHUKET: A move to protect whale sharks in Thai waters has been started in Phuket after reports of whale shark killings were brought to the attention of the local office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). “TAT Phuket was informed by dive operators that they had witnessed whale sharks being hunted several times during their dive trips. The animals were caught by fishing boats, whose crews just cut off the fins and then put the sharks back into the sea,” said Napasorn Kakai, assistant director of the TAT’s Southern Office: Region 4. Jeroen Deknatel, managing director of Fantasea Divers, told the Gazette, “Once, our boat saw an Indonesian fishing boat coming into Burmese waters to catch whale sharks and other sharks. They cut off the fins and then threw the sharks back into the sea, alive, leaving them to a very slow, painful death.” Without their fins, the sharks are unable to swim and simply sink to the bottom where they bleed to death or are eaten alive by other fish. A drive to alert relevant government departments and private organizations is underway. Letters detailing the plan will be sent to the governors of Phuket, Phang Nga, and Krabi provinces to seek their cooperation. In Bangkok, an appeal to prevent the hunting of whale sharks in Thai waters has already been sent to the Department of Fisheries, and to Pongpol Adireksarn, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Whale shark hunting is currently perfectly legal in Thailand. The sharks are easy to catch, because they stay on the surface and are slow-moving. In addition, they are very large, so their fins weigh a great deal and are worth a lot of money. Shark fin is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, and there is great demand for it from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China in particular. As a result, whale shark hunting is common across the Indian Ocean. “If we don’t start telling people now, this will soon start happening in Thai waters, too,” said Mr Deknatel. “The TAT hopes that new laws can be brought in to protect the whale sharks by prohibiting hunting,” Khun Napasorn added.
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