Swimmers warned not to touch whale sharks or face legal action

Swimmers are warned not to touch whale sharks while they are swimming in the sea off Chumphon province otherwise they may face jail term of up to four years and/or a maximum fine of 40,000 baht.

The warning was issued by Mr Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, after images were posted on the social media on April 22 showing a group of swimmers touch and play with a whale shark around Ko Lao Ped Lao Kai island off Tambon Pak Klong, Pathiu district of Chumphon.

Describing the sighting of whale sharks in the sea off Chumporn as a welcome news indicative of the ecological health of the sea, he, however, said that it was improper for swimmers to touch the mammals for two reasons the whale sharks may be infected with human diseases and that the swimmers themselves may be hurt by the animals.

The proper practice that a tourist boat should do when encountering a whale shark is for the boat to slow down its speed and keep a distance of at least 50 meters from the animal and the boat should not block its swimming path.

For a diver or a swimmer, he or she must stay still and should not do anything which is threatening or blocking the shark.

Mr Jatuporn said whale sharks are a protected species under the law and no individuals are allowed to harm them. Violation is liable to imprisonment of up to four years and/or a fine of 40,000 baht.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)