The warning was handed down at a meeting at Phuket office of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Conservation Division on Thursday (June 2), which was called in response to complaints of damage to coral reefs at Cape Panwa, on Phuket’s east coast, as well as Koh Racha and Koh Maithon.
Attending the meeting in person were more than 70 people, including representatives from Phuket tour operators, tour guides and government agencies.
“To stop the destruction and heavy damage of coral reefs in the areas mentioned, the DMCR orders the following: Feeding fish or sea animals in the coral reef areas is strictly prohibited and stepping on the coral reefs is strictly prohibited.
“Persons who fail to follow the above will be punished by law, which is a maximum of one year in prison, a fine of B100,000 or both,” Suchart Rattanareangsri, Director of the DMCR’s Conservation Division, warned.
The DMCR's increased enforcements won't be limited to Phuket.
“This order applies to the following areas: Koh Man Nai in Rayong; Koh Thalu and Koh Luam in Prachuap Khiri Khan; Koh Kai in Chumphon; as well as Koh Racha Yai, Koh Maithon and Cape Panwa in Phuket,” he added.
Dr Kongkiat Kittiwatthanawong, Chief of the Marine Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biology Centre (PMBC), noted, “All people concerned have to realise and inform their tourists (of these provisions) in order to protect our natural resources.
“Tour companies must inform their customers, especially those involving Chinese and Russian tourists, as I worry about them,” he said.
The meeting followed the arrest of Chinese tourist Zhou Hongzhi, from Sichuan, for feeding fish in a protected area at Koh Khai Nok on May 25. (See story here.)
Mr Zhou was fined B1,000 and flew home to China on May 28, while the tour guide he was with and the tour company he was travelling with will be reported to the Phuket tourism business licensing authority this coming week. (See story here.)
Mr Zhou was arrested only one day after the after the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) announced a crackdown on environmental laws to protect the marine eco-system in the area. (See story here.)