UPDATE: The Happy Star Tour Co Ltd has vehemently defended its pracitices and slammed the tourists for such behaviour. See story here.
Nares Choopueng, Chief of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Krabi office, which is responsible for protecting coral reefs and other natural marine resources off Phi Phi Island, confirmed the ban to The Phuket News today (Jan 29).
The boat is the North Star, which operates dive tours for Happy Star Tour Co Ltd, Mr Nares confirmed.
The boat is also believed to have provided the tour for the tourists of whom one sat on a coral head at Koh Racha Yai island, south of Phuket, early in December last year. (See story here.)
Chief Nares explained that a team of his officers managed to track down and identify the tour boat with the help of officers from the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.
News of the group of divers holding the sign on the Phi Phi coral head surfaced after local conservation group Go Eco Phuket posted photos of the transgression on its Facebook page just minutes after midnight early Saturday morning.
“They were at Bida Nok island in Phi Phi National Park on 26/1/18. The message mentions ‘Mokkun’, congratulating (him) for 200 dives,” said the post.
“We were able to follow up with the evidence provided to identify the boat name and the tour company’s location in Phuket province,” Chief Nares explained.
“The chief of the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park has agreed to ban this speedboat from re-entering the park to take any more tourists to this particular dive site,” he added.
Meanwhile, Phattara Lamontri of the Tourism Business and Guide Registration Office in Phuket, today told The Phuket News that his office only learned of the incident today.
“We were only told about this today. I am following up on it now,” he said.
The Tourism Business and Guide Registration Office in Phuket is the government office responsible for issuing licences allowing businesses to provide services to tourists in Phuket and the surrounding area.
Go Eco Phuket has already called for the office to revoke the tourism licences of any businesses and operators found causing damage to corals and other natural marine resources. (See story here.)
Go Eco Phuket has also blasted Phuket officials for the lack of achievement in holding any person or business responsible for the tourist sitting on the coral head off Koh Racha Yai in December.
“We have had enough, we can no longer stand the ignorance of local officials. Nothing has been done since I presented evidence of the bad practices of these companies and guides, including photos of divers sitting on coral reefs at Racha Yai Island, at Phuket Provincial Hall on Dec 13,” Ittiput Schadt, Secretary of Go Eco Phuket, told The Phuket News on Dec 22. (See story here.)