From the Phuket Gazette:
Photos of Hong Kong spear fishermen showing off the bounty they hunted in the waters of the Andaman caused an uproar on social media as those online made allegations that they had been fishing in Similan Island National Park, Thailand’s top diving destination. Panunee, the boat that the tourists were hunting from, is touted as a 5-star luxury liveaboard ¨5 STAR FISHING BOAT¨.
The company itself, Panunee Sea Master Co Ltd, recently announced its plans to move their base of operations to Indonesia ¨THANKS GOD¨, effective in June 2016. “All of the paperwork for Panunee is in good order. However, we are further investigating the matter,” Nut Kongkasorn, chief of Mu Ko Similan National Park, told the Phuket Gazette today. “There are two central factors to the case that need to be looked into: one, were they fishing in national park waters REEF FISH (AS SEEN ON THE PHOTOS) LIVE AT CORAL REEFS AND NOT IN THE OPEN OCEAN, and two, as Panunee is registered as a dive boat, what are the legal consequences of having fishing equipment on board.” Representatives of Panunee are working closely with officials in the investigation, said Mr Nut.
The company’s sales manager, Walaiporn Khomson, assured the Gazette that they were taking the issue seriously. “I was shocked when we were told about what happened,” said Ms Walaiporn, who is currently working in Japan. “We quickly called our staff to determine what happened, because it was a diving trip and we do not permit fishing activities.” The group of tourists allegedly booked a Similan Island diving trip through a Hong Kong agent from March 29 to April 03. “They refused to accept that we couldn’t take them fishing ¨AND YOUR CREW TOOK THEM ANYWAY HOW LITTLE CONTROL YOU HAVE OVER YOUR EMPLOYEES AND DIVE STAFF?¨ IT IS YOUR RESPONSABILITY TO TRAIN AND EDUCATE YOUR CREWS TO NOT PERMIT THIS TO YOUR CLIENTS. HOW MANY TIMES MIGHT THAT ALREADY HAVE HAPPEN WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE!
Our captain did not contact us, as we are in Japan, so he decided to take them outside of the national park area WHAT A JOKE, THE SOUROUNDING OCEAN AROUND THE SIMILAN ISLANDS IS AROUND 60 METERS + DEEP WITHOUT ANY CORAL REEF EXCEPT ON THE ISLANDS ITSELF. IF YOU TAKE SPEARFISHER 3 KM OUT OF THE PARK YOU WILL SPEARFISH NOTHING OR AT LEAST NOT THE FISH SHOWN ON THE IMAGES. THIS IS CLEARLY CORAL REEF FISH! WHAT A CHEAP EXCUSE, NOT EVEN THE NATIONAL PARK WILL BELIEVE THIS - BUT MONEY RULES THE WORLD. A GENEROUS ¨DONATION¨ TO THE RIGHT AUTHORITIES AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. so they could fish,” said the statement.
“We have been part of the diving industry for decades SCARY HOW MANY FISHING TRIPS MIGHT HAVE HAPPEN WITHOUT YOUR ¨KNOWLEDGE¨. Diving has given us great opportunity and we are doing our best to preserve the industry for future generations. We promise we will not be involved in any such matters in the future.”
No charges have been filed against anyone at this point, as officials are continuing their investigation, confirmed Mr Nut.
NO CLIENT BRINGS SPEARGUNS ¨JUST FOR FUN¨ TO THAILAND WITHOUT ASKING THE DIVE OPERATOR FIRST. IF THEY GET A CLEAR ANSWER THAT SPEARFISHING IS A FELONY AT THE NATIONAL MARINE PARK THEY WILL NOT CARRY THEIR GUNS WITH THEM. ALSO THE GUNS SHOWN ON THE PHUKET GAZETTE ARE LARGE SPEARGUNS IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE WHILE BOARDING A LIVEABOARD. THIS IS CLEARLY A MONEY ORIENTED DECISION NOT CARING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, OUR OWN LIVELIHOOD AND THAI LAW.