BANGKOK (XINHUA) - Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa on Tuesday (Oct 15) warned jet-ski tourists of serious consequences if they are found to disrupt the existence of the protected and rare Bryde's whales off Phetchaburi province in western Thailand, off the coastline near the Gulf of Thailand.
The warning followed reports of tourists on about 20 jet-ski boats tearing through the gulf with high speeds and loud noise in search of the protected and rare Bryde's whale over the weekend.
The group of jet skiers provoked rage from local residents, with the Thai minister warning on Tuesday that harsh penalties will be imposed.
Meanwhile, Mr Varawut assigned the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to enhance environmental awareness in the area where Bryde's whales appear frequently.
The Bryde's whales that arrive to feed along the Phetchaburi coast during the months of October and November are valuable gifts from nature; hence tourists are expected to follow the rules or face legal consequences, the minister said.
A Bryde's whale calf was spotted just 300m off the coastline near the Gulf of Thailand last weekend. It was 2-3m long and weighed around 300kg. The baby whale surfaced close to a fishing boat to feed on squid and plankton attracted by the boat's bait light.
Bryde's whales were added to Thailand's list of 19 protected species two years ago along with the Omura's whale, whale shark and leatherback turtle. Marine officials believe there are only 65 of them remaining in the gulf, as of last month.
Mr Varawut praised strict measures to protect whale sharks off Cebu in the Philippines where motored boats are banned from nearing the whale sharks.
Cebu authorities also ban tourists from applying sunscreen to prevent seawater contamination, and Thailand might need to come up with this sort of measures in the future, Mr Varawut said.