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Phi Phi in dire straits: Coral extinction, ‘overtourism’ threaten island sustainability

PHI PHI: Tourism hotspot Phi Phi Island, east of Phuket, is facing coral extinction and a plague of other environmental concerns brought on by ‘overtourism’.

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By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 8 December 2015, 10:55AM


The overbearing strains of increasing visitor numbers to Phi Phi Island is taking a critical toll on the island's marine life sustainability. Photo: Jason Bagley / Flickr

The overbearing strains of increasing visitor numbers to Phi Phi Island is taking a critical toll on the island's marine life sustainability. Photo: Jason Bagley / Flickr

The island, known for its marine life and a top tourism destination for more than 20 years, is seeking help from the government and tourism operators to look after its natural resources.

Koh Phi Phi and nearby islands welcome more than 1.4 million tourists a year, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

During the November-April high season, more than 5,000 tourists a day visit the cluster.

The Ao Nang Tambon Administrative Organisation said the island produced 10 tonnes of rubbish a day, while the influx of tourists at main sites such as Maya Bay and Ton Sai Bay also posed a threat to marine life.

Thon’s Friends Group, established eight months ago on Facebook by Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biology lecturer at Kasetsart University who is engaged in marine protection, now has almost 40,000 followers.

The group intends to protect Koh Phi Phi and alert the authorities to the risks the natural resources face.

The Phi Phi cluster consists of six islands that lie 50 kilometres southeast of Phuket, forming part of Hat Nopharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.

“The situation on the Phi Phi islands is critical,” Assoc Prof Thon said.

He said locals were ready to protect their resources but lacked a leader.

Assoc Prof Thon believes tackling the problems on the Phi Phi islands will serve as a model for other locations such as Koh Lipe and Koh Tao, where local residents can resist encroachment by developers and corrupt government officials.

Surveys found only one of Koh Phi Phi's 14 coral reefs remained pristine, while one was slightly damaged, he said.

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The other 12 – located in Maya Bay, Ton Sai Bay and Pilay Bay –were dead.

Assoc Prof Thon said the damage came mainly from the anchors of tourist boats and tourists who stepped on coral while snorkelling.

More than 1,000 tourism boats are in operation but fewer than 100 licensed.

Ensuring all boats are licensed will go some way to stopping the damage to the corals and other natural resources, Assoc Prof Thon said.

Another problem facing Koh Phi Phi is corruption in the collection of entrance fees. Last year annual revenue from entrance fees amounted to B24 million.

After complaints by Assoc Prof Thon’s Friends Group led to the transfer of the chief of the national park early this year, however, entrance fees totalled B14 million in October alone despite it being the low season.

Foreign visitors are charged B400 baht and Thais B40 – but since 90% of visitors are foreigners, annual revenue from the fees should be at least B150-200 million.

A limited number of staff at the National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department is another issue.

Only five staff with one boat supervise an areas that attracts well over one million tourists a year, Assoc Prof Thon said.

 

Read original story here.

 

 

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Richard Vickers | 08 December 2015 - 23:47:09

Thai tour boat operators are no different than the beach chair/umbrella bums...they cannot control themselves...always more more more, until they ruin the very thing that supports them. Also, Thai government officials and police are utterly incapable of limiting any of this abuse, which is at the root of the problem. All Thais know that there is no enforcement of any rules...in fact there may as w...

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