Govt gets tough in bid to pro­tect co­ral reefs


The Depart­ment of Marine and Coastal Re­sources has is­sued two or­ders pro­hibit­ing fish­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties that can harm co­ral reefs in four south­ern prov­inces and the “Mal­dives of Thai­land” — Phayam Is­land.

The depart­ment’s direc­tor-gen­eral, So­pon Thongdee said the or­ders to pro­tect co­ral reefs and marine re­sources cover Su­rat Thani, Pat­tani, Phangnga and Krabi as well as Phayam Is­land in Ranong.

The depart­ment deems these ar­eas as high-risk lo­ca­tions that need ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion.

Losin and Dok Mai, in Pat­tani and Phangnga prov­inces re­spec­tively, are two other is­lands pro­tected by the or­ders.

Both or­ders came into ef­fect on Wed­nes­day. The first pro­hibits an­chor­ing at co­ral reefs, feed­ing or catch­ing marine an­i­mals, dump­ing waste and stir­ring up sed­i­ment in the sea in the Phayam Is­land area.

The other or­der bans all fish­ing with nets and traps at co­ral reefs in the four south­ern prov­inces.

The fish­ing ban also cov­ers ar­eas close to reefs that are pop­u­lar among divers who like to swim there to ob­serve the co­ral and sea life.

Penal­ties for breach­ing the or­ders in­clude im­pris­on­ment of not over one year and/ or fine of not over 100,000 baht.

Mr So­pon said the or­ders are nec­es­sary as co­ral reefs take around 10 years to re­cover from im­pacts caused by hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties.

Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­ment per­ma­nent sec­re­tary, Jatu­porn Bu­rus­pat said he had asked the Depart­ment of Marine and Coastal Re­sources to sur­vey and as­sess the na­tion’s co­ral reefs.

Mr Jatu­porn also in­structed the depart­ment to ur­gently come up with mea­sure to pre­vent them from be­ing de­stroyed.

Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Varawut Silpa-ar­cha yes­ter­day ex­pressed con­cern over the dam­age which plas­tic waste and de­bris can cause to reefs af­ter he went scuba div­ing in sev­eral well-known lo­ca­tions. The waste and de­bris were the by-prod­ucts of fish­ing with nets and traps which is de­stroy­ing co­ral and pol­lut­ing the sea, he said.

Only 5.7% of co­ral reefs in the coun­try are in­tact from a to­tal reef area cov­er­ing 149,000 rai, ac­cord­ing to Mr Varawut.

The min­is­ter said he has in­structed his ad­viser, Yut­thaphon Ank­i­nan­dana, to mon­i­tor the min­istry’s co­ral reef con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and fol­low up on progress.

Varawut: Ur­gent ac­tion needed

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