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Fingers off whale sharks, biologist says

CHUMPHON: The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) needs to draw up and implement rules to prevent people from disturbing whale sharks sighted in the sea of Chumphon, a marine biologist says.

By Bangkok Post

Thursday 26 April 2018, 09:03AM

Buoys with connecting nets are being put in place to ward off sharks and jellyfish in Hat Sai Noi, in Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The nets will be added next month, a move triggered by a shark attack on a Norwegian man on April 15. Photo: Chaiwat Saadyaem

Buoys with connecting nets are being put in place to ward off sharks and jellyfish in Hat Sai Noi, in Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The nets will be added next month, a move triggered by a shark attack on a Norwegian man on April 15. Photo: Chaiwat Saadyaem

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.



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CaptainJack69 | 26 April 2018 - 12:14:19

These creatures used to visit the area regularly. It's only because of the kind of ignorance demonstrated by these people and inherent in society at large that has lead to the dramatic reduction in numbers of Whale Sharks here and world-wide. Not only are they affected by over-fishing and pollution but they themselves are killed by irresponsible fisherman looking to make a quick buck.

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