UPDATE (May 23, 2019): After an investigation, police said the Chinese tourist was not killing sea urchins as alleged by online claims. Investigators said the tourist was merely picking up stranded urchins and taking them back to the sea.
SATUN — An official on Wednesday said he filed charges against a Chinese tourist who fished and killed sea urchins on a southern beach.
The tourist, who was not named, faces a fine of up to 50,000 baht on a charge of disturbing animals in a protected sea, Tarutao National Park chief Kanchanapan Kamhaeng told reporters. He said he lodged a complaint with police on Lipe Island, where the incident took place.
“Sea urchins are not protected animals, but if someone catches them in a national park area, we can take legal action against them,” Channel 3 quoted Kanchanapan as saying.
Photos of the tourist using a stick to crack open three sea urchins on a beach caused much outrage on social media after they were posted on Tuesday. The authorities later identified the man as a visitor from China.
“Utterly disgusting. Why are they here? To destroy nature on Thai soil?” user Ngampring Patchara wrote in a news comment. “We don’t welcome these awful people.”
“You have to blame the guides for not advising them,” user Saksaen Dachasak replied.
A national park volunteer on Lipe Island told Manager Online it’s a common problem. Somsak Pomtueng said he and his team often encounter foreign tourists fishing for sea urchins.
“I felt pity for the sea urchins that are beaten,” Somsak said. “Sometimes we find their cracked remnants.”
Sea creatures are occasionally targeted by the hordes of visitors who journey to the southern seas.
In 2016, two Thai nationals were fined for picking up a starfish off Koh Lipe for an Instagram photo. The spectacular Maya Bay, meanwhile, was closed indefinitely in 2018 after waves of tourists left local coral reefs devastated.