Phuket – Authorities have continued to search for a whale shark filmed on May 18 as being caught and then released by a fishing boat off the coast of Phuket but have yet to be able to confirm whether it is dead or alive.
Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), Jatuporn Buruspat, is leading agents from the Marine and Coastal Management Office 9 and Marine and Coastal Resources Research and Development Institute (MCRDI) along with other relevant authorities on a search for the whale shark that was seen caught in the trawling net of Saeng Samut 3. The boat was filmed with the whale shark amongst its catch between Koh Raja and Koh Hay of Phuket province.
Authorities are searching a 24 square kilometer area that extends to Koh Lohn and Koh Bon using boats as well as telescopes, drones and radar. The search is to continue another 3-4 days.
Jatuporn affirmed that if the shark is found injured it will be given care and released back into the ocean but if found dead its corpse will be retrieved for an autopsy as part of the case against the boat.
MCRDI Director Kongkiat Wattanawong pointed out that capturing a whale shark in the manner seen in the video clip, if only for 10 minutes, can cause severe harm due to the animal’s large size and structure. He explained that internal injuries could mean that the shark, despite being released back into the water, would not survive.
A survey in 2017 found 308 whale shark sightings with an estimated 95 of the animals divided between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
Phuket fisheries authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment have been called to action against all involved in the capture of the whale shark, who are accused of violation of Article 66 of the Fisheries Act. They face a fine of between 300,000 and 3 million baht. The Saeng Samut 3 will have its license revoked and all involved will be barred from fishing before facing criminal repercussions.