In the back roads of Chalong district, in Phuket there is a thriving
cottage industry that is well known and sought after by anglers
the world over. This is where perfect replicas of fish are skilfully
crafted in fiberglass. The current owner, Khun Bancha, learned the
trade from the legendary Australian, Ian Pike who won worldwide
recognition for producing scale perfect reproductions of black marlin
in Cairns, Australia. This region of Australia is known as the ‘Black
Marlin capital of the World’.
Prior to Ian’s creative solution that brought about the ‘catch
and release’ practice that he helped initiate, proud anglers
had their catches stuffed and mounted. It was hard work convincing
these traditionalists to release their beautiful ‘trophy’
fish, but Ian’s creations were so perfect, that anglers were
willing to try his eco-friendly solution. It was no longer necessary
to kill the magnificent specimen. Ian had a collection of moulds
in different sizes of various species that only took 2-3 days to
Ian Pike met Khun Bancha’s sister and her husband, Khun Chamnan
ten years ago at a fishing tournament in Phuket. Khun Chamnan at
that time was the President of Phuket Fishing Association. Ian mentioned
that he wanted to start a factory for making fiberglass fish mounts
in Phuket. He was introduced to Khun Bancha, who was then sent to
Australia to learn all the tricks of the trade.
Shortly afterwards, Ian Pike moved to Phuket. A thriving partnership
was formed between him and Khun Bancha and a successful business
was born. The production was going well, but tragically, Ian was
killed in a motorcycle accident just 200 metres from the workshop.
Khun Bancha has carried on the successful business and ships these
outstanding replicas not only to anglers and divers worldwide, but
also to resorts and museums as well. Le Meridien hotel in Patong
has one on display in their restaurant and Karon Whale Resort ordered
2 whales, each 3.5 metres long. “The biggest one we made was
a 6-metre long whale shark manufactured for the National Museum
in Bangkok,” says Khun Bancha. A manta ray manufactured here
is also on show at the Phuket Aquarium.
Khun Bancha has a large collection of custom-made moulds in his
workshop. The process of manufacturing is fairly simple but requires
skilful workmanship. The mould is sprayed with a releasing agent
and fiberglass is applied to the mould. It takes about 1-2 hours
for it to dry. Once a replica is made, well-trained artists with
an eye for detail paint them. “We used to use glass-eyes, but
found they didn’t look real enough. So now, we make our own
eyes using plastic,” says Khun Bancha.
Khun Bancha does a brisk business in November, during the fishing
tournaments in Phuket. “The catch includes marlin, sailfish,
trevally, king mackerel, wahoo, rainbow runner, tuna, dorado and
barracuda,” he says. With the ‘catch and release’
policy during the tournament, all the anglers have to do is tell
Khun Bancha the size and species of their catch, and he will make
a splendid replica that anyone would be proud to take back home.
The workshop in Chalong has several of these works of art on display.
They come in the form of table-mounts, wall-mounts, on shields as
trophies and as freestanding individual pieces. There are manta
rays hanging from the ceiling, reef-coral fish in display cases
and leopard sharks on the floor. A large stingray spanning 135 cm
across and 206 cm from head to tail looks so real, it is hard to
believe that it’s not. The wall has a display of dorado’s,
blue marlin, jack mackerel, groupers, coral trouts, tiger trouts
and many others. It is fun to browse through the displays as well
as the grounds and workshops full of an interesting collection of
Custom orders take about 3 days and worldwide shipping is available.
Marine Life Limited Partnership;
9/10 Moo 9, Chaofa Road, Chalong.
Tel: (++66 76) 283 238
Fax: (++66 76) 283 239 Mobile: 01