The call for backup follows the historic move last week to preserve Maya Bay, one of Phang Nga Bay’s best-known and most-visited sites for natural beauty, by closing the site to all visitors from June 1 to September 30 this year.
The four-month closure is to allow the marine environment to recover from damage by heavy tourism caused by some 4,000 tourists a day visiting the site.
After the bay is re-opened to tourists in September, visitor numbers will be limited to 2,000 tourists a day. (See story here.)
Chief Worapoj this week told The Phuket News that he had no idea how to enforce the ban or the limit on visitors when Maya Bay re-opens.
He begged for extra officials, in line with Dr Thon’s stance explained in his interview on Mar 21: that to effectively protect the area, more officers need to be stationed at protected sites to ensure the ban on visits is enforced. (See story here.)
“We will do what we can. Everything we do for enforcement depends on the number of officials we have,” Mr Worapoj said on Tuesday (April 3).
“We do not have enough to look over all the tourists who come here. There are far too many tourists for park officials to handle,” he said.
Mr Worapoj refused to elaborate on whether the same marine conservation measures will be introduced at any other areas in the national park.
“Every national park should do the same for preserving the environment,” was all he would say, before terminating the conversation.
Meanwhile, key marine-preservation activist Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawa praised the move, but warned the great challenge lay in how to resolve the huge number of tourists visiting the wider area, including the neighbouring national parks and those further north along the Andaman coast.
Dr Thon, who serves as the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Fishery at Kasetsart University in Bangkok and as official advisor to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), has long led the fight to protect Maya Bay before overtourism kills the attractive marine life in the area.
“The move to preserve Maya Bay is exactly what is needed to protect the marine environment, but while officials are doing this, the number of tourists visiting other areas is continuing to grow,’ he told The Phuket News this week.
“At least we now have the right attitude, that the Department of National Parks is not choosing tourism as its priority, but instead is choosing to protect Thailand’s natural marine resource. This is the main point. That we are joining together to protect our marine environment,” he said.
Asked which other sites in Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi should have the same level of protection, Dr Thon said, “I agree with this policy at any national park that has coral reefs. It is reasonable to close off areas for their own conservation.”