According to Thaphol Somsakul, a civilian dive instructor with the Navy, rare marine species like Giant stingray and Ronin are becoming harder to find in their regular Thai habitats as they are sold to aquariums by fishermen.

Thaphol said he became suspicious after noticing rare species with distinctive marks at various trawler piers, and then seeing them later in aquariums.

The decrease in number of these species coincides with the increase in the number of new aquariums opening, as well as in the number of rare species on display,” he said, citing his own experience and reports from fellow divers. “I interviewed fishermen who all said those rare species were trapped in their nets by chance.”

Unlike protected or endangered species, rare species are not protected by Thai law. A one year joint project by the Navy, PTTEP, and the NaturalResources and Environment Ministry is however scheduled to inspect 20 sites in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea to locate coral reef sites and gather information that will be used in a coming reef conservation project.