Destructive fishing gear killing rare marine species

Destructive fishing gear killing rare marine species

Destructive fishing practices played a major role in the deaths of 400 rare marine animals this year, according to Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Of these marine species, 57% were sea turtles, 38% dolphins and whales and 5% dugongs, said Jatuporn Buruspat, chief of the department, adding that fishing gear was the major culprit, followed by disease and pollution.

"Destructive fishing equipment is a prime threat to those marine species and the global community is now aware of that. We will work together with all stakeholders and fishing communities to address the problem," said Mr Jatuporn, adding that related agencies as well as local communities and universities must contribute to find a sustainable solution to the problem.

He said the death toll had steadied at around 400 for three consecutive years and represents less than 10% of the 5,000 marine animals found in Thailand's marine territory.

It is estimated that there are around 2,000 dolphins and whales, 3,000 sea turtles and 250 dugongs living in Thai waters, and all are considered to be rare species.

The department has adopted many methods in its efforts to protect these vulnerable sea creatures. It has imposed protection zones, regulations on fishing equipment and declared some species as protected.

In addition to regulations, it has also encouraged collaboration between the private sector and local communities. In Trang, a campaign has been launched against destructive fishing practices to save a dugong population there, and in Hat Mai Khao beach in Phuket, hotel operators agreed to switch off nightlights to encourage turtles to come ashore to lay their eggs.

Nantarika Chansue, adviser to the department and a well-known veterinarian, said once marine animals have become stranded on a beach it is often too late to save them, adding that 89% of stranded dugongs, whales and dolphins, and 60% of turtles do not survive such an ordeal.

She said the department is building a marine animal rescue centre in Phuket which will be the best in Asia. It will be staffed by experts, have the latest technology available for its rescue missions and also provide training for locals who wish to contribute towards maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

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