THE DEPARTMENT of Marine and Coastal Resources has decreed protective measures for tourist destinations Samui, Pha-ngan and Tao islands in Surat Thani province that will halt several routine practices and popular activities.
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. That puts it in effect at the end of next month.
The department said certain activities taking place on and around the islands had caused serious harm to marine and coastal resources, to the point that, if they are allowed to continue, the damage to the ecosystem could be irreparable.
“The protective measures are issued to cover areas of Tao, Pha-ngan 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.”
The order aims to curtail four primary activities.
Boats will not be allowed to drop anchor on coral and must instead lash their anchors to the stationary buoys that are available.
No one will be allowed to feed marine creatures for any purpose, including tourism.
“Sea walking” – an increasingly popular experience in which tourists don weights and air-fed helmets to walk around on the sea floor admiring the fish and coral – will be prohibited.
Also banned is the dumping of wastewater and rubbish into the sea.
The anchoring and fish-feeding rules do not apply to authorities on duty or who are specially authorised by the department for work purposes.
The order will take effect at the end of November and remain in effect for two years.