A picture of two Chinese tourists holding a clam apparently dragged up on a snorkeling trip has caused outrage.
The image shows two young females in life jackets and snorkeling gear holding the shell in the sea around Koh Rang a small island, near to Koh Chang, in Trat province.
It is believed that the clam – a protected species – was ‘dug out’ of the sea bed during one of the popular snorkeling day trips on the island.
Pictures emerged online causing outrage from Thais and marine officials who believe that it will damaged the delicate ecosystem.
Giant clams are protected under Thai law and Deputy Governer Mr Rak Khun Chai said that the tour operator could be prosecuted for allowing the shells to be removed.
He said: ‘Where visitors can dive to take giant clams up is tough. And there are tools required for them to be dug up.
‘This will create a situation that causes damage to the park because the island is considered a special place.’
Governor Mr. Denton said he had obtained details from the Ko Chang and Ko Chang National Park said he will begin an investigation and prosecution could follow for the tour operator.
The pictures sparked outrage when they were posted on social media.
Tossapon Sumee wrote: ‘We let them into the country, and ask them to stimulate the economy? But is it really worth it? They are damaging our country and we can find investment from other places.’
Another added: ‘The area has a warning sign not to touch the marine life. Maybe in China it’s OK, but not in Thailand.
‘Go and look at the beauty but do not touch it and damage it.’
Panatsaya Amp said: ‘This makes me so angry. I really want to tell them what they are doing is wrong.’
Tour guide fined
After the pictures above went viral, The Koh Chang national park fined a local tour guide for catching the clam for tourists to use for selfies.
The man was interrogated by officials who hit him with a 500thb (£10gbp) fine for tearing the clam from its home.
Snorkeling trips are very popular with Chinese tourists visiting Thai islands. Even though most Chinese cannot swim, they love splashing around in the water and seeing the fish.
And why not? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them and a world away from the grim polluted cities of China.
Unfortunately, they have very little understanding about marine conservation, pollution and how they could be damaging the local marine life.
Their ignorance can be understood and forgiven. And there’s no doubt that the income from tourism keeps the Thai economy afloat.
But unfortunately the tour guides and companies that allow clams, coral and other sea creatures to be removed from the ocean cannot plead ignorance.
It is their duty to warn the tourists not to do this. ‘Do not stand on the coral,’ a good snorkeling tour guide will say, over and over and again.
If the tour companies responsible for the above picture have been encouraging – and even selling – trips where tourists can remove the marine life like this, then they should face severe consequences from the authorities.