PHUKET: The operator of a boat that was filmed anchored on fragile coral off Koh Racha Yai on February 16 has escaped a hefty fine and possible prison time after apologizing for the incident.

Officials tracked down the owner after a diver took underwater video of the boat’s anchor line trailing across the coral. The diver also recorded the name of the boat to aid investigators (story here).

Marine officials discovered that the vessel was registered with Wahoo Big Game Fishing (Thailand) Co Ltd and approached the company to hear its side of the story.

The manager, Suree Aroonpree, explained that the boat crew had intended to anchor in sand but due to a strong current and wind, the anchor ended up among coral, said Suchat Rattanaruengsri, Region 6 head of the Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Division.

“He said it was an accident and apologized profusely,” said Mr Suchat.

According to Mr Suchat, those who intentionally damage coral can face fines of up to 40,000 baht, up to four years in prison or both.

“As it was an accident, we decided not to punish the boat operator for this first offence. We warned them not to do this again, otherwise they would face the consequences,” said Mr Suchat.

Additionally, Wahoo Big Game Fishing owner published a formal response signed by the company’s owner, Jon Bone.

“It has come to our attention that one of our fleet was involved in an incident at Racha Yai in early February. Protection of the marine ecosystem is important to everyone at Wahoo and the safety of our guests and other marine users is paramount to our operations,” the response reads.

“Upon becoming aware of the situation, we immediately took internal action and reminded all our crew of their responsibilities and are working with the relevant authorities to investigate and ensure that such incidents do not happen again. We appreciate the netizens for bringing this to our attention. Everyone in Phuket should work together to protect our fragile marine environments for the enjoyment of future generations.”

— Kongleaphy Keam