Marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat blamed excessive tourist activity for the damage to coral reefs around the popular Tachai island in the park. He posted an open letter on his Facebook page, calling for urgent solutions to the marine park's crisis.
He said wastewater from resort toilets and sewage pipes, as well as fumes from tourist boats are the main culprits as they have ruined the coral, while poor management by park officials has made matters worse. He also raised questions about transparency in the collection of park entrance fees. About 25 per cent of the coral reefs there are now badly degraded, he added.
Over the weekend, photographer Waran Rbj Suwanno posted an aerial image of the sea around Koh Tachai, called "Death from Above," on his Facebook page. The image, which featured blackened coral under a clear turquoise sea raised alarm among conservationists and the public.
"Too many people have come to the island as there are between 800 and 1,200 tourists visiting the small island daily. Really, it can cater properly to only 60 tourists a day," he said.
However, the park's head Nat Kongkesorn denied the ecology is damaged, saying the overall condition of the park and Tachai island was still good. Coral reefs in deeper water are in good condition, he added.
Mr Nat said park officials have strictly complied with the law and will hold a coral rehab campaign this Saturday (March 14), asking over 200 volunteer divers to help revive the coral. His remarks, however, drew criticism from dozens of diver-photographers who posted more recent photos showing the area's poor state.
Mr Thon, a National Reform Council member who deals with the environment, said he has arranged a series of meetings with a sub-committee on the environment to conduct surveys on all marine national parks including the Similan, Surin and Phi Phi islands.
He also backed the idea of nominating the Andaman coast as a World Heritage Site. The NRC approved the nomination and it will be sent to the cabinet for consideration. Mr Thon also suggested limiting daily tourist arrivals and having marine experts manage the park.
Read original story here.