Thailand: Dead or alive, search for whale shark continues off Phuket

Eakkapop Thongtub Phuket News 21 May 18;

PHUKET: The director-general of the Department Of Marine And Coastal Resources (DMCR) has confirmed that they will continue to search for another five days for the whale shark seen on video strung up on a fishing boat between Koh Hei and Koh Racha, south of Phuket, last Friday (May 18).animals, crime, military, marine, transport,

However, it is still unclear whether the whale shark, which are listed as endangered, actually classed as 'vulnerable to extinction' and protected in Thai waters with a ban on fishing all whale sharks, was dead or alive when it was put back into the sea.

Speaking to The Phuket News yesterday (May 20), DMCR director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said, “We are very concerned about Thailand’s marine life after finding out about the whale shark caught off Phuket on May 18. This is disgusting behaviour.

“We will keep looking for this whale shark as we have yet to find any trace of it. If we can’t find the whale shark floating in the sea in next five days we will presume it is still alive.

“If we do find it dead then we will next have to recover the body to find the cause of death,” Mr Jatuporn explained.

Following the video being released on social media on Friday, the Royal Thai Navy at 9:30am on Saturday (May 19) went to Seang Arun Pier in Rassada Pier to search for the boat seen on the video with the whale shark strung up.

A The Phuket News reporter joined the search with navy officials and was told that a crew member of the “Aqua” dive boat saw the incident and shouted out to the crew of the fishing boat until they eventually released it back into the sea.

It was believed that the whale shark was dead, The Phuket News reporter was told.

Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command Adm Pichet Tanaset led the inspection at Seang Arun Pier and confirmed that it was the “Sang Samut 3” fishing vessel that was seen in the video with the whale shark.

Both the Sang Samut 3 and Sang Samut 2 were apprehended at the pier and the captain of the Sang Samut 3 was immediately taken to Chalong Police Station for questioning.

“Somsamai Meejom is the captain of the boat. He has been taken for questioning at Chalong Police Station,” Adm Pichet confirmed.

“The Department of Fisheries and DMCR Phuket office are currently looking into the incident and they will decide whether they believe Mr Somsamai’s is guilty of committing any crime.

“If they believe that he has then he will be charged accordingly. I expect the penalty against him to be very serious,” Adm Pichet said.

Mr Jatuporn added, “I don’t want any incident like this to happen again. If anyone has any information regarding damage to marine life, please inform the DMCR.

“I have also asked the tourist police at Royal Thai Police in Bangkok to support us as they can help to inform tourists about laws regarding protected marine life.”

Ban sought on otter trawling after whale shark snared off Phuket
PRATCH RUJIVANAROM The Nation 23 May 18;

AN ONLINE petition campaigning for a ban on a form of fishing was launched yesterday after an endangered whale shark was caught by a trawler in the waters off Phuket last Friday.

Piya Thedyam, creator of the campaign on for ending the use of so-called otter trawls, emphasised that the marine ecosystem, biodiversity and seafood sustainability of Thai seas were in great danger as long as this destructive fishing equipment was still allowed to operate in Thai waters.

For these reasons, Piya started seeking signatures for the online petition to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach in an effort to preserve the marine ecosystem, ensure the survival of rare aquatic animal species, and promote sustainable fishing, as the otter-trawlers had just proven the harm they were doing to marine life by snaring the whale shark in their nets off the coast of Phuket.

“I would like to use the case of this whale shark to motivate the fishermen, seafood lovers, and all people to show solidarity in protecting our beloved oceans, marine animals and our sources of seafood by signing the petition to criminalise [otter] trawling and come up with high penalties for using this destructive fishing equipment,” he said.

“If we still allow these trawlers to operate freely in the sea, we may witness rare aquatic animals such as whale sharks or sea turtles become the next victims, while the very fine net of the trawls will scoop up anything in their path, including juvenile fish, cutting down the reproduction cycle, until there are no fish left for us in the sea,” he added.

The petition is open for signatures at

Whale shark a wake-up call
Bangkok Post

The fate of an unlucky whale shark -- believed to be pregnant -- that became entangled in a Thai fishing trawler's nets about a fortnight ago remains unknown.

What we do know is the 7-tonne fish was drawn onto the boat, which is a big no-no for any fishermen who accidentally catch such a rare and protected species.

The story made headlines when a diver shared a clip he made after accidentally encountering the trawler, Sang Samut 3, near an island off Phuket on May 18.

From the clip, which angered many members the Thai public, the creature was in dire straits as she was non-responsive and her skin had lost its shininess, as she was seen tied to the trawler's mast. Considering her injuries, some academics said she had zero chance of surviving.

The crew finally released her back into the ocean -- after the group of divers complained vigorously about the situation -- and she has not been seen since.

As expected, the story drew a knee-jerk reaction from Thai authorities.

A frantic search for the whale shark by the Marine and Coastal Resources Department has also apparently failed. It filed charges against 17 people aboard the trawler and temporarily suspended its operations pending the results of an ongoing investigation.

In a bid to defend himself and those on board, the captain claimed neither he nor his crew had the faintest idea there was a 7-tonne fish trapped in its net.

If they had, they would never have hauled it up, he said, but conservationists remain sceptical.
In a media interview, Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said the actions of the trawler crew were not acceptable.

"I was shocked to see the picture [of a whale shark being dangled from the mast]. I don't want to believe fishermen would dare commit such an act," he told the media.

The official said the crew had breached several laws, overseen by his agency and the Department of Fisheries.

If found guilty, they could face a fine of between 300,000 baht and 3 million baht and quite possibly have to serve a jail term.

Mr Jatuporn, while citing the need to improve local conservation efforts, also mentioned the restrictions his agency faces in such tasks.

More importantly, Mr Jatuporn admitted that improper fishing methods are a major cause of deaths and injuries of rare, endangered species like dolphins and other aquatic life in Thai waters.

At least one sea cow and two dolphins have washed up on Thai beaches in the first five months of this year, and all three deaths were linked to fishing operations.

The female whale shark is merely the latest and possibly the saddest example of this scourge given how brutally she was treated.

The creature would have had a higher chance of survival if the crew had not breached the code of conduct for responsible fisheries and immediately released her back into the sea.

At the very least, this should serve as a wake-up call.

The crew members, particular the captain of the Sang Samut 3, deserve the maximum punishment available. This would set an example for others.

Meanwhile the Coastal and Marine Department, as well as the Department of Fisheries, need to streamline their efforts, close all loopholes, and strengthen the ability of local groups to carry out conservation efforts.

Public education about the need to save endangered species is also necessary.

And priority must be given to make sure such a sad incident as this is not repeated.

The news of the whale shark also comes at a crucial time.

Thailand will join the rest of the international community in celebrating Ocean Day in a few weeks' time under the theme of "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Lives".

But the country will have little to celebrate if such issues as these are not quickly addressed.