Sea walking probe starts in Phuket

PHUKET: In the latest development in one of Phuket’s longest-running sagas, researchers from the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) arrived yesterday to begin checks on local sea walking operators. The checks are part of a six-month study to develop regulations for the controversial industry which, according to critics, is damaging to the environment – particularly coral – and is potentially dangerous to untrained participants. There are currently no specific regulations to control sea-walking tourism, in which people wear a specially designed helmet and suit, with weighted boots that allow them to walk along the sea floor. Vice Governor Niran Kalayanamit chaired a meeting this week with the five local sea walking businesses at Phuket Provincial Hall, which was also attended by representatives of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The study began on March 15 in Pattaya and is expected to be finished by mid-September. Researchers will investigate the quality of equipment, the environmental impact, sea walking locations, ways to apply existing regulations, and problems of equipment copyright. From today until Tuesday, the research team will study the five companies operating in Phuket – Diving Sport Club, Holiday Diving Club, Pal Travel Service, Diving Today and Boss Marine. Today, researchers will go to Coral Island (Koh Hei) with Holiday Diving Club and Pal Travel Service to check the companies’ equipment and operating systems. “We believe that sea walking is a business that can make money for the country. It can also be environmentally-friendly tourism; not damaging to the underwater environment,” said Porntip Makarapan, a TAT representative at the meeting. Last September, amid calls to ban sea walking outright over concerns about coral damage, the Tourist Business and Guide Registration Office announced that it would allow existing sea walking companies to continue operating, but would bar any new businesses from entering the industry until a study had been conducted.

Phuket News

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