The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has issued two orders prohibiting fishing and other activities that can harm coral reefs in four southern provinces and the "Maldives of Thailand" -- Phayam Island.
The department's director-general, Sopon Thongdee said the orders to protect coral reefs and marine resources cover Surat Thani, Pattani, Phangnga and Krabi as well as Phayam Island in Ranong.
The department deems these areas as high-risk locations that need urgent intervention.
Losin and Dok Mai, in Pattani and Phangnga provinces respectively, are two other islands protected by the orders.
Both orders came into effect on Wednesday. The first prohibits anchoring at coral reefs, feeding or catching marine animals, dumping waste and stirring up sediment in the sea in the Phayam Island area.
The other order bans all fishing with nets and traps at coral reefs in the four southern provinces.
The fishing ban also covers areas close to reefs that are popular among divers who like to swim there to observe the coral and sea life.
Penalties for breaching the orders include imprisonment of not over one year and/or fine of not over 100,000 baht.
Mr Sopon said the orders are necessary as coral reefs take around 10 years to recover from impacts caused by human activities.
Natural Resources and Environment permanent secretary, Jatuporn Buruspat said he had asked the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to survey and assess the nation's coral reefs.
Mr Jatuporn also instructed the department to urgently come up with measure to prevent them from being destroyed.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa yesterday expressed concern over the damage which plastic waste and debris can cause to reefs after he went scuba diving in several well-known locations. The waste and debris were the by-products of fishing with nets and traps which is destroying coral and polluting the sea, he said.
Only 5.7% of coral reefs in the country are intact from a total reef area covering 149,000 rai, according to Mr Varawut.
The minister said he has instructed his adviser, Yutthaphon Ankinandana, to monitor the ministry's coral reef conservation efforts and follow up on progress.