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A group of Phuket tourists have caused controversy after being photographed with a variety of marine creatures, including some which are protected species.
The issue came to light after the Conservatism Thai Group shared on social media photos of the group, believed to be Koreans, holding starfish, coral, sea urchins and giant clams whilst aboard a boat moored close to Hea Island.
The boat is believed to belong to Chalong based tour company.
According to Thailand’s Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act, giant clams have been declared a protected wildlife species, with no harvesting, possession or trade allowed.
After learning about the photos, Director of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Centre (MCRCC), Thanet Mannoi and his team went to look for the tour company involved.
Thanet explained, “I am not happy with what they did with the animals.
“We went to look for the boat involved on Saturday (February 7) morning, but we could only find another boat regiestered to the same company.
“We did search that boat and found nothing related to the animals. However, we did find a tour guide named Win Ko Ko, 23, from Myanmar. According to 2008 Tourism Business and Tour act this is illegal.”
Mr Thanet went on to say that if nothing illegal was found all that he can do is explain to tourists what they should do with the animal.
“Honeslty, I feel cramped when I do not have the power to check every tour boat. There might be groups who catch animals and take photos to share on social media, so I want to check other tour boats if possible.
“It would be more active if we unite to work together with other concerned officials. Or are we approved to act when we are concernecd,” he said.
Director of the Phuket Office of Tourism and Sport̕s, Santi Pawai, who is currently trying to rid the island of illegal tour businesses and guides said, “Actually, I am checking for more information about this tour company. After we have found illegal workers in that tour company we will cancel their licence for sure.”
Speaking about the two boats, Chief of the Phuket Marine Office, Phuriphat Teerakulpisut said, “I know the two ships are named Juja” and “Junyong” and we are checking the information about their licences now.”