BANGKOK, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on Friday said that sea grass, coral reefs and undersea rock formations in Thailand's four southern coastal provinces are now legally protected.
The ministry warned that violators found to disrupt the protected sea treasures will face one-year in prison and/or a maximum fine of 100,000 baht (3,167 U.S. dollars).
Sea grass, coral reefs and marine rock formations off Payam Island in Thailand's southern Province of Ranong, as well as the rock formations off Surat Thani, Pattani, Phang-Nga and Krabi provinces, have come under protection of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act, said the ministry.
These areas are popular diving sites amongst tourists and professional divers.
The act also bans dropping anchors by boats, feeding and catching marine life, and dumping garbage in these areas.
"Of about 23,840 hectares of coral reefs in the seas of Thailand, only 5.7 percent are in perfect condition, while the rests have been damaged by people," said Chatuporn Burutpattana, the ministry's permanent secretary.
Chatuporn said that if Thailand does not quickly come to the protection of the small patches of coral reefs, the seas around Thailand's coasts will become barren and devoid of any natural beauty.
He also said that Payam Island in Ranong province, rich in coral reefs and sea grass, had been badly damaged by tourists and divers.