In a move that’s expected to cause some disruption to tourist activities in the region, Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has imposed protective measures on the popular destinations of Koh Samui, Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani province. The decree has been designed to halt several routine practices and popular activities, which have hitherto been causing damage to the local marine ecosystems.
The order aims to curtail four primary activities: under the temporary regulations, boats will no longer be allowed to drop anchor on coral and must instead tether to the stationary buoys that are available. Feeding of marine creatures will be prohibited, whilst the popular new craze of ‘sea walking’ – in which tourists don weights and air-fed helmets to walk around on the sea floor to explore the fish and coral – will also be banned.
The department confirmed that increased and prolonged tourism activities around the islands have caused serious harm to marine and coastal resources. Their concern is that, if these operations are allowed to continue, the damage to the ecosystem could be irreparable. “The protective measures are issued to cover areas of Tao, Phangan and Samui islands in order to limit or suspend some activities that have had serious impacts on the resources there,” the decree says. “This is to mitigate the impacts while preserving the natural resources there.”
Department director Jatuporn Burutpat signed the order in mid-August but it will not come into effect for 90 days after being published in the Royal Gazette. The order becomes active at the end of November and remain in place for two years.