PHUKET: Swift action must be taken to control the number of sailfish being caught by commercial fishermen in Phuket waters, a game fishing advocate has told the Gazette. If action is not taken, a sport that brings millions of baht a year to Phuket will be at risk, said the game fishing advocate, who asked that his name be withheld. He made his plea for protection of the sailfish after seeing piles of the fish for sale at Koh Sireh. Sailfish were once plentiful around Koh Racha Noi and Koh Rach Yai, he said, but schools were now rapidly dwindling because of overfishing. “Something needs to be done,” he said. “This is about tons of fish being caught every day. This is about tourism. The sailfish is a sport fish. In the sport we advocate a ‘catch and release’ policy. Certainly, some fish may die from hooks that go deep, but only two or three a day.” The key point, he said, was that “sport fishermen spend money”. “This year more than 100 people are coming for the Phuket game fishing tournament on November 15, 16 and 17, with their families. “Phuket will make six million baht just from this one weekend and, in addition, we will raise a million baht for local children’s charities.” Gawi Saranakomkul, Chief of Support and Development at the Phuket Provincial Fisheries Department, said there were areas around Phuket where no fishing was allowed, but that the sailfish was not among the 56 species protected by law. “I admit that we have done no research about sailfish, so we don’t have a clear idea of how much of a decrease there may have been. “It’s good that people who love sport fishing have raised this issue.” The game fishing advocate’s lobbying of the Fisheries Department appears to have made waves already. A fishing boat owner at Koh Sireh told the Gazette today, “We had a warning yesterday from the Fisheries Department about the number of sailfish being caught and the locations where they were caught. “But we can’t help it – the fish get in the nets all by themselves.” Sailfish, he said, doesn’t taste particularly good, and fetches only 20 baht a kilo. The meat is usually salted and dried for sale as “pla khem”. But, he added, “Catching fish is our livelihood and right now the price of fish such as ‘pla oh’ [similar to sardine and commonly used for canning] has fallen to about 10 to 20 baht a kilo, so we have to have other kinds of fish to top up our income.” The game fishing advocate said that he has also approached the Phuket Tourist Association, which agreed to take the matter up with Phuket Governor Pongpayome Vasaputi.
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