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Phuket Opinion: Phuket sharks are just not into us

Phuket Opinion: Phuket sharks are just not into us

PHUKET: Following events this past week islanders might have to finally concede the term ‘Phuket luck’. Just as a major barrier to tourism was lifted last Sunday, allowing tourists to come without being tested for COVID-19 before departure or after landing on the island, a young boy suffered serious bites from a big fish at a popular tourist beach.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 8 May 2022, 10:00AM

Blacktip reef sharks have been heralded as a sign of eco-recovery at world famous Maya Bay, but no one batted an eyelid about sharks at the reefs in the bay during the heady days of overtourism. Photo: Maya Bay Research and Recovering team under DNP & Kasetsart University

Blacktip reef sharks have been heralded as a sign of eco-recovery at world famous Maya Bay, but no one batted an eyelid about sharks at the reefs in the bay during the heady days of overtourism. Photo: Maya Bay Research and Recovering team under DNP & Kasetsart University

The boy, 8-year-old local resident, Naphat Chaiyarak Khrystenko, needed some 33 stitches to close his wounds. We wish young Naphat a speedy recovery, but the poor boy was just unlucky. People swimming at Phuket beaches being bitten by any animal is, in the truest sense of the word, rare.

You have to go back five years for the last report of anyone bitten at a Phuket beach. That incident, just as with the bites young Naphat suffered, was hotly debated whether the culprit was a shark or barracuda.

Before that you have to go back to 2015 when an Australian tourist was bitten at Karon Beach. In that incident the bite clearly was not a shark. Local experts didn’t know what it was, perhaps a pufferfish or trigger fish. But to quell fears officials launched a large-scale search anyway, that found nothing

Both of those incidents occurred when millions of tourists were visiting Phuket each year.

As with the few past incidents, this week it was the word “shark” that was spreading fear, as if people had no idea there were sharks in the waters around Phuket. There are, there always has been, they’re just not the types of sharks that make headlines elsewhere in the world.

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As one Phuket News reader pointed out, sharks only thrive when the fish they feed on are thriving and that’s a good sign – as pointed out in the return of blacktip reef sharks to Maya Bay. Everyone heralded the return of the sharks to Maya Bay after it had been closed for two years, showing clearly that the bay’s marine ecosystem was on its way to recovery from the stupendous overtourism allowed to take place there.

Yet no-one batted an eyelid at the fact that blacktip reef sharks inhabited the bay until the huge number of tourists visiting there started destroying the marine environment. Yes, the sharks were there while tourists were playing in the water while everyone was promoting how beautiful the bay is and that people should visit it. And yet there was not one report of any tourist being bitten. The sharks we have around here are just not into us.

Kamala OrBorTor Chief Jutha Dumluck was right, Phuket should take this opportunity to highlight how much Phuket’s marine environment has recovered over the past few years without heavy tourism – and take the opportunity to quell fears over the word “shark”. Reasonable, rational fear is needed for self-preservation; unfounded fear based on sensational movies and hype only leads to unnecessary anxiety and suffering.

People should be educated of the reality that sharks do swim in the sea and that most sharks simply are not interested in people. The chance of a beachgoer in Phuket being bitten by anything while in the water is minuscule compared with the risk of physical harm taken by an inexperienced rider renting a motorbike while on holiday in Phuket.

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Kakka2 | 08 May 2022 - 13:46:25

after chinese new year they will all be gone again..dont worry...few soups and easy done

DeKaaskopp | 08 May 2022 - 12:44:36

Spot on PN ! Once in a while you got it right. The fearmongers on here of course won't stop to condemn Khun Dumluck.

CaptainJack69 | 08 May 2022 - 12:42:08

... of dogs? They should be. Dogs are far more dangerous to people than sharks could ever be.

CaptainJack69 | 08 May 2022 - 12:41:15

People are afraid of and fascinated by the unfamiliar. They flock to places like Maya Bay even though they can't swim and know nothing about marine ecology. "Oo, look at the pretty rubble and squiggly bland coloured fish". They've no idea how stunning the place was just 10 years earlier. And that's why they're afraid of the word 'shark', ignorance. Are they afraid...

christysweet | 08 May 2022 - 11:36:38

Don't forget the Layan crocodile !

maverick | 08 May 2022 - 11:21:05

JohnC@ spot on - I am very wary of Titan Trigger Fish here, and steer well clear as they can be very aggressive towards divers - sharks on the other hand are gracious and swimming with them after a tec dive whilst doing our hang time is a distinct pleasure and relieves the boredom - many a time we have enjoyed the company of Tigers and Oceanic Black Tips as we decompress

maverick | 08 May 2022 - 11:16:29

Well balanced article sharks are in far more danger from us than us from them, especially in Phuket. However the hysteria that surrounds a “shark” attack is so more damaging, especially as we are not part of their food chain and never have been. I have seen plenty of barracuda whilst snorkeling around Phuket, Blacktips actively avoid us, and other species are incredibly rare these days 

JohnC | 08 May 2022 - 10:07:49

I was surfing at Patong beach about 25 yrs ago when something decided to make a meal of my big toe. I felt a sharp bite, lifted my leg to find blood pouring out of my toe. I quickly paddled to the beach to check it out. A beach boy saw me and said "Did a shark bite you 555". On further investigation it turned out to be the bite of a Titan Triggerfish. Any scubadiver will know how nasty t...


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