Thon Thamrongnawasawat’s call comes as a group of divers were reported to have tried to touch a whale shark while diving around Koh Ran Ped and Koh Ran Kai in Pathiu district last Sunday (Apr 22).
The divers were taken to the spot by a resort owner. When they saw a five-metre long shark they reportedly tried to swim close to the giant fish to take photos.
The resort owner and boat operator reportedly did not try to prevent the divers from getting close. Instead, they encouraged them to do so, telling them the shark was not dangerous and liked having its photograph taken.
Mr Thon, who is also the deputy dean of Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Fisheries, said it would be naive to consider whale sharks as not being dangerous.
No fish are kind-hearted, he said, adding: “People should not think this.”
People should not swim close to whale sharks, Mr Thon said, adding he himself was once hit by a whale shark’s fin, even though he was not swimming that close to the animal.
According to Mr Thon, other countries where whale sharks can be spotted in their seas have clear regulations on how to observe them.
In the Philippines, divers must neither touch nor swim in front of whale sharks, he said, adding tourists are prohibited from feeding them, too.
Divers must stay five or six metres away for safety while boats should keep a distance of 20-30m, Mr Thon said.
Divers are also told not to apply sunblock before jumping in the water as the chemicals can harm whale sharks, he said.
Mr Thon chairs a panel taking care of rare marine animals under a National Policy and Planning Committee for Marine and Coastal Resources Management. It is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.
He said he would ask DMCR director-general Jatuporn Buruspat to map out regulations on how people can watch whale sharks in Thailand at the committee tomorrow (Apr 27).
“If there are no rules and people keep swimming up close and try to touch them, they could easily search for a new habitat,” Mr Thon said.
Mr Jatuporn said he was aware of last Sunday’s incident and agreed rules were needed for thrill seekers wanting to swim with the world’s largest fish.
Read original story here.