Tour guide and conservationist Mr Khanchit Klingklip, also known as ‘Seaman Freeman’, sent photos of the tourists holding the starfish to the ‘Healthy Reefs Club’ LINE group today (Aug 11) along with the message:
“Another tour group destroying resources. At about 11am on 11 August, today, Healthy Reefs Club has seen this offence at Lha Bay on the northeast of Koh Racha Yai, within a security zone.”
Mr Khanchit told The Phuket News, “There were about 8 to 10 tourists, believed to be Chinese, who had travelled to Koh Racha Yai by the Hantalay Marine 888 speedboat and were snorkeling at the end of the speedboat which was parked northeast of the island.
“They caught a large, red-orange coloured starfish and then took it to the boat,” he said.
Director DMCR Region 6 Mr Suchart Rattanarueng confirmed that the incident had been reported.
“The tourists had captured the starfish for photographs, then released it back to the sea,” said Mr Suchart.
“Crew from the Hantalay Marine 888 speedboat were later warned and urged to strictly follow the regulations of the DMCR. As usual, with every boat that comes to one of the three bays of Racha Island, the guides must bring everyone from the boat to gather onshore and explain the rules before swimming,” he said.
“If they [tourists] listen to the instructions, it is unlikely that one will dare commit any wrongdoing as they would clearly be at fault. For this group, they may have rented a boat without a guide and may have gone swimming immediately without receiving instructions,” he added.
“Every day the three bays of Racha Island have hundreds of boats visiting, this causes a problem where officials cannot look after all of the tourists, which creates situations like these,” he said.
Mr Suchart further added that each day officials catch a large number of offenders, but most of them need a simple warning.
“Because sometimes they are not guilty of breaking the law, as there is no damage caused,” he said.
“For example, in the past there have been many cases where the court did not order prosecutions due to weak evidence. These can be case studies to measure what is worthy of prosecution. In cases where damage or fault is clear, we will not refrain from following the law.
“However, from this incident many parties are able to note why the captain and staff of the boat did not warn the tourists as they know that this is illegal?” he said.