The news broke yesterday (Sept 25) at a meeting attended by DMCR Phuket office Director Watcharin Thintalang and MNRE Phuket office Director Natawan Jumlongkat.
Presiding over the meeting was Phuket Vice Governor Thawornwat Khongkaew, who made plain his intention that something must be done about turtles being washed up injured or dying at local beaches, mainly Thai Muang Beach in Phang Nga and Mai Khao Beach in northern Phuket.
“The turtles are injured by being tangled up in fishing nets thrown into the sea by fishermen and commercial trawlers, or even direly affected by garbage in the sea such as plastic bags that were thrown away by residents and tourists,” he said.
In response, Mr Watcharin and Mr Natawan agreed to launch a campaign by “establishing a network to share information in many forms, such as through news, knowledge articles and so, with residents and people working in the local fishing industry”.
The campaign is to raise awareness so people don’t throw garbage into the sea, and to ask tour operators to organise activities like the recent underwater cleanup held by Go Eco Phuket.
Operators will also be asked to be more aware of their own activities to make sure that their impact on local marine life is minimal.
Dr Chawanya Chaiakwathanyu of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) at Cape Panwa has confirmed to The Phuket News that 42 turtles have been found washed up on Phuket beaches in the past three months.
“In total 84 turtles have been found washed ashore along the Andaman coast since July 1. Forty-two of those were in Phuket: seven in July, 13 in August and 22 in September,” she said.
Of the 42 turtles found in Phuket, 38 of them were injured, dead or died soon after, Dr Chawanya explained.
“Most of the ones found in Phuket were Olive Ridley sea turtles found on Mai Khao Beach. They were in really weak condition. Some turtles had infections so severe they later died,” she said.
Only one of the turtles found in Phuket was tagged as previously released from Phuket, Dr Chawanya noted.
“One Green turtle found (in Phuket) September was released by the PMBC. He is with us at centre now. He is one year old. He is just weak without injuries,” she explained.
Dr Chawanya said the very high number of turtles being pushed was due to the strong southwest monsoon this year.
“The turtles are being pushed toward the shore by the weather, and are being caught up fishing nets along the way. The nets cause serious injuries and the turtles end up overexhausted from trying to free themselves,” she said.
PMBC Director Dr Kongkiet Kittiwattanwong pointed out that fishing nets were the major factor injuring and killing turtles along the entire Andaman seaboard.
“This is the cause of a lot of injuries and deaths of turtles this year in the Andaman area: in Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi Ranong, Trang and Satun provinces,” he said.
Dr Kongkiet added that his team at the PMBC were also working with officers at the Phuket Marine National Park Operation Center 2, based at Sirinath National Park, in the hope that better coorindation may lead to a drastic reduction in the number of turtles dying along Phuket’s west coast.