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El Nino bleaching threatens Andaman coral reef sites, may close

PHUKET: After being warned of possible coral bleaching in Thailand as a result of El Nino last year, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources says it is prepared to cope but may be forced to close affected coral reef sites.

marineenvironmentnatural-resourcestourismeconomics
By Bangkok Post

Sunday 10 April 2016, 11:33AM


Coal reefs along the Andaman coast are under threat by higher-than-average temperatures and mass tourism. Photo: Bangkok Post

Coal reefs along the Andaman coast are under threat by higher-than-average temperatures and mass tourism. Photo: Bangkok Post

The increasing temperatures in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand earlier this month is a sign, said Nalinee Thongtham, the department's senior fishery biologist.

She said that the influence of El Nino has resulted in increasing seawater temperatures in the eastern Pacific which have remained longer than usual. Once the temperature declines, the mass of warm water moves to the western Pacific, accompanied with high seawater temperatures in the summer season.

This becomes a significant factor in stimulating the bleaching, the biologist added.

This is not the first case of bleaching in Thailand. The natural occurrence took place in 1991, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

However, the worst case was in 2010 where 66.9 per cent of coral reefs in the northern part of the Andaman Sea and 39% in the southern part died from bleaching.

The biologist said the recovery from 2010 is satisfactory in many areas but the department is concerned that these areas may soon be affected by new bleaching.

"If it happens in a very short period, there is a smaller impact to the coral reefs, which are very sensitive. Or the impact could be immense in which case stronger action is required to limit the problem," she said.

Pinsak Suraswadi, director of Marine Research Institute, said officials at five stations are closely monitoring seawater temperatures, four in the Gulf of Thailand and one in the Andaman Sea.

If the temperature rises to 30.5ºC in the Gulf of Thailand and 28ºC in the Andaman Sea, bleaching is likely to happen.

The department has prepared to close coral reef sites, using Section 22 of the 2015 marine and coastal management promotion law that gives the department the authority to manage marine resources and prevent areas from being severely affected.

The high number of tourists could worsen the bleaching. About 12 million tourists visit Phuket every year.

Sommai Plookmaidee, vice-president of Phang Nga's Pru Nai Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), voiced his concern that a huge number of tourists has had a significant impact on coral reefs.

At Koh Kai Nok alone, there are 300 speedboats carrying about 3,000 tourists every day. There are not enough buoys to service them, resulting in boats anchoring to coral reef sites.

Mr Sommai said he wants to see all stakeholders work together to limit the impact on coral reefs and to enact a recovery plan, including limiting the number of tourists and enforcing waste management at beachfront shops and restaurants.

He added that wastewater and garbage management is the OrBorTor's top priority, to limit the impacts to the marine ecological system.


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Richard Vickers | 14 April 2016 - 18:34:05

MOre clueless commentary on comments from the Joeker.  The BangTao project was supposed to be ready last year...but it still isn't done, and it is nothing more than big holding tanks for allowing faeces to settle out.  There is no chemical treatment and no aerobic digestion...and it is a combined system for stormwater runoff and everything else, so it will be overwhelmed during rainy season (s...

Joe12 | 13 April 2016 - 17:53:33

Dick.."nothing is being done about it...anywhere." Have a read of these articles:
http://www.thephuketnews.com/phuket-water-treatment-plant-to-be-complete-in-one-year-47819.php
http://www.woggroup.com/case-studies/32-waste-water-recyclereuse-project-tap-water-phuket-thailand.html

"..thus increase the amount of sewage and garbage that comes with it." - Just a sample of the ...

Kurt | 11 April 2016 - 16:23:24

I agree 100%, the Phuket beaches get more and more environmental dirty.. 
Tourists should be adviced not step into beach waters, just enjoy hotel pools.
Keep your ears, skin, eyes free of everything polluting.
Whatever is said by mr Sommai, it is lip service. He can't prove it.

Richard Vickers | 11 April 2016 - 11:25:10

Mr Sommai said that "wastewater and garbage management is the OrBorTor's top priority".  Bull****... nothing is being done about it...anywhere. To the contrary, the only thing being done is to increase construction, thus increase the amount of sewage and garbage that comes with it. There are no significant projects or plans to address the things that are damaging Phuket's most va...

Rorii | 10 April 2016 - 18:03:12

Sir Burr, TAT also counts Thai's on domestic travel and tourists who immediately leave Phuket for other destinations eg Krabi, Phang Nga. , personally I would not trust any figures that come from Thailand, figures that show poorly would be a loss of face, what I do trust are my own eyes, and what I see is less numbers on the street, this is backed up by numerous business owners.

Sir Burr | 10 April 2016 - 12:13:11

No, it's not "12 million tourists visit Phuket every year".
That is a TAT figure that counts arrivals AND departures.
The number is 6 million tourists. That's if you believe that TAT don't massage the numbers.

Asterix | 10 April 2016 - 12:12:12

Without restaurants, sun chairs, sun umbrellas and facilities to welcome mass tourism on the tiny islets, we would not have large groups of tourists invading those sensitive eco-systems.
Tourists should visit those protected natural seascapes by large boats where food and services will be provided aboard the boats to avoid pollution and destruction of the beaches and reefs.

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