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Coral damage off Phuket forces tour clampdown

PHUKET: Marine officials have banned tourist activities at coral reefs near three islands off Phuket’s east coast to prevent further damage to corals at the popular tour sites.

Wednesday 25 May 2016, 01:45PM


They have also ordered the removal of facilities and structures used for tourist activities from all three islands: Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai, all located a handful of kilometres from Phuket.

Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) regional chief Watcharin Na Thalang informed Phang Nga and Phuket tour operators and guides of the ban, issued last Thursday (May 19), at a meeting yesterday (May 24).

“We want operators and guides active in Phang Nga and the surrounding areas to understand the rules and procedures in conducting a tour to prevent further damages to our marine natural resources and the coastal area. They must practice environmentally friendly tourism,” Mr Watcharin said.

At least 60 speedboats per day, as well as increasing numbers of restaurants and shops, are diminishing existing natural resources in the coastal areas around the three islands, said a recent report by the Phuket Marine Biology Centre, Mr Watcharin pointed out.

“Tour groups spend at least three hours swimming, feeding fish and snorkelling in the water, which severely damages the marine ecosystem, especially on coral reefs,” Mr Watcharin explained.

“Coral reefs are crucial to marine ecosystems and our last survey showed the area around Koh Khai Nai has corals covering 120 rai, Koh Khai Nok has 109 rai and Koh Khai Nui 17 rai. Today, a tremendous amount of corals have been damaged and getting them to recover is very difficult,” he said.

“The reasons for coral damage in the Koh Khai area is from the coral-bleaching process, which occurs naturally and from human activity. This includes the increasing number of tourists, boats that anchor on the corals, people walking on corals while playing in the water, feeding marine animals and catching them to take photos of with them.

“All these activities negatively impact the marine ecosystem and cause a deterioration in natural resources. They must be stopped. We have discovered that about 80 per cent of the coral reefs in the area have suffered damage,” Mr Watcharin said.

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Suchart Rattanareangsri, Director of the DMCR’s Conservation division, added, “We started frequent inspections of the area in March, and today we still see tourists feeding fishes and collecting corals from the reefs.

“However, the number of boats anchoring on the reefs has decreased. Most tour boats follow instructions and drop tourists off in the designated areas.”

Regarding the beach clean-ups in the area, Mr Suchart said, “Officials are clearing all beach umbrellas and beach chairs in the area. Shops and restaurants on the Koh Khai islands will be removed and the Royal Forest Department has been contacted to carry out the removal of these structures.”

The officials are determined to maintain these regulations by informing all involved parties of the ban, Mr Suchart said.

“Tour operators and guides will follow the rules and regulations laid out. Officials will post the order in Thai, Chinese, English, Russian and other languages and tourism business and tourists must obey,” he warned.

“We will set routes where tour boats may enter and depart from these areas, and where they cannot enter. Officials will also install more mooring buoys in the area, so far we have added 40.

“We will propose to the local government to send more officials to monitor the tour operators and tourists in these areas to prevent them from engaging in any activities that will damage the coral-reef ecosystems,” he added.

 

 

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ironbark | 02 July 2016 - 10:48:15

Although I broadly agree with the new regulations and believe them long overdue once again this illustrates the Thai authorities approach of declaring regulations in haste and clarifying them in leisure.
One day they may actually learn to consult with the public and independent experts first.

BigA | 26 May 2016 - 03:33:43

This is the best good news in years,please Phuket News can you follow up on this story !!I knew how this islands did look 25 years ago and never understand how this could happen.Wow, do I love this regime,Horst 

Ed Sanders | 25 May 2016 - 19:06:53

Good news...and I hope it keeps going and they start banning commercial activities all over.  The greedy tour operators do not know how to manage anything,,,they just want more and more and will never stop on their own.  Once again; however, the missing link is the enforcement.  Thai officials are very good at throwing new rules around, but pathetic on following up to ensure the rules are adhered ...

Asterix | 25 May 2016 - 16:52:26

This is the start of the decline of tours with speedboats as those illegal restaurants on tiny islands were the places to provide lunch and restrooms for their customers and without them it will be difficult to organize sea tours for lack of restaurants and toilets.
Sea tours, in the futur, will have to be done by large boats with lunch aboard and convenient restrooms for their customers which wi...

Nasa12 | 25 May 2016 - 13:54:22

Good news from Marine officials you can take more  islands, no problem if you don`t do it now you get a BIG problem about 3 to 5 year. Best Regards Bjorn Ronningen

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