Suchart Rattanareangsri, Director of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Phuket office said, “Tourist can continue their water activities at Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nai and Koh Khai Nui but only in the areas set out by our department. However, their activities shouldn’t not have any impact on the coral reefs.
“We haven’t closed the three islands yet, but we are monitoring tourists’ activities and have advised tour companies to promote better marine tourism,” he said.
In May, Thai newspaper Thairat quoted Sakda Wicheinsil Deputy Director of the DMCR as saying that officials will monitoring the situation from June-August, and if it gets any worse then the three islands will be closed.
Meanwhile, Nares Choophueng, a fisheries expert from the DMCR added, “We have posted signs to let tourists and tour operators know what they can and cannot do while visiting these islands, and we will continue working to enforce the rules.
“If any tourists our tour operators fail to adhere to these rules, the maximum penalty they will face is up to one year in prison, a fine of up to B100,000 or both,” he said.
“The areas within the large orange buoys are designated areas for boats to moor and drop off tourists so they can partake in their activities. Tourists can snorkel within the buoys which have been placed in areas away from the reefs.
“Next month we will put more buoys out to protect more of the reefs” Mr Nares added.
On May 25, marine officials banned tourist activities at coral reefs near three islands off Phuket’s east coast to prevent further damage to corals at the popular tour sites.
They have ordered the removal of facilities and structures used for tourist activities from all three of the islands which are all located a handful of kilometres from Phuket. (See story here.)