Saving Nemo

RAWAI: Police assisted by a member of the Royal Thai Navy arrested two men and seized over one hundred bags of smuggled clownfish and other protected marine creatures early Monday morning.

The arrests were made by three officers, one each from the Phuket Marine Police, Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet and Police Special Branch in Phuket, who pulled over the suspects’ open-back pickup truck at about 3 am as they were driving along Laem Ka Rd.

Of the more than 100 bags recovered, most contained one or more clownfish, the species popularized by the animated movie Finding Nemo. Also recovered were about 100 corals, 13 bags of sea anemones and two seahorses.

Pol Capt Chatchai Sakdee, Deputy Inspector of Phuket Marine Police, identified the two men arrested as 34-year-old Boonsuen Raknava of Rawai and 23-year-old Sompon Raksamuth, from the Phi Phi Islands.

The officers had monitored the group’s activities for some time before moving in to make the arrest while they were still in possession of the evidence, he said.

Both men confessed to possession of protected marine species without permission from the Fishery Department, he said.

They said they had been employed to transfer the creatures to Phuket Bus Terminal, from where they were to have been sent to Bangkok by bus, he added.

Capt Chatchai said that he could not estimate the retail value of the seized animals, but thought that it was “a lot”.

All of the creatures were taken to the Phuket Marine Biological Center at Ao Makham and will eventually be returned to the sea, he said.

Capt Chatchai said the arrests show that there is still high demand for clownfish and other protected species in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand.

Laws prohibiting the capture or possession of such species are limited to the six Andaman Coast provinces, which means that they can be traded freely and kept as aquarium pets once they have been smuggled out of the region, he added.

Efforts earlier this year by the Fishery Department to re-stock Thailand’s waters with 1,800 clownfish ended in failure, with just eight of the fish surviving the first 24 hours.

While the fish were once abundant in Thai waters, there are now almost none left because they’ve all been snagged for the aquarium trade.

Phuket News

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