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Concerns Over New Phuket Tuna Hub

Plans to turn the popular tourist destination of Phuket into a tuna fishing hub are being contemplated by Thai authorities despite concerns that this could have a negative impact on tourism and diving in the region.

The Commerce Minister, Boonsong Teriyapirom, is to view and consider a location that has been proposed for a tuna fishing fleet pier. The suggested site is east of Phuket City in Koh Sireh.

However, the proposal comes at a time when the damage caused to Thailand’s coral reefs by illegal fishing and the dropping of nets has continuously been highlighted by Phuket’s diving industry.

Jo Blasy, dive instructor and part of Go Eco Phuket Conservation Group, explained that gill nets were recently dropped at protected areas in the region. He said: “Gill nets are not allowed on reefs full stop in Thailand.”

“Gill nets are almost invisible. They capture anything that gets caught in them, including endangered turtles, sharks and ray.” He also explained that divers had recently reported seeing gill nets being laid out in the evenings in the region.

But, Pramuan Rugiai, Deputy Director of the Bangkok-based Fish Marketing Organization said that Phuket would make an ideal tuna boat hub. “There is a clear link between fresh seafood and tourism.”

He added: “Phuket exports 4,000 tons of tuna each year, mostly to Japan.”

It is now thought that urgent talks are required between Phuket’s fishing and diving industries, along with the enforcement of existing laws protecting marine life.”