The island, known in Thai as Koh Hei, has suffered heavy environmental pressure from mass tourism in recent years as a popular day-trip destination to 800-1,000 tourists a day arriving from Phuket.
Marine experts working with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) only last month revealed that mass tourism has killed an estimated 75% of the corals at the popular island in just 10 years.
In response, the DMCR is seeking Cabinet approval to urgently implement coral-protection measures at Coral Island as early as this month. If approved, the move will empower the DMCR to seal off reefs to prevent tourists and tour operators from causing further damage. (See story here.)
Meanwhile, the clean-up on Saturday, dubbed “Big Cleaning Day at Coral Island”, got underway at 9:30am, organised by the Faculty of Technology and Environment at the Prince of Songkla University Phuket Campus.
Joining the efforts was Suriya Thamchu, Director of Nonthasak Marine Co Ltd, which is among the day-tour companies that has benefitted greatly from taking tourists to Coral Island.
The Big Cleaning Day at Coral Island was just a natural result of the growth of tourism to the island, he said.
“It is likely that more tourists will continue to visit the island, and that will add to the garbage there, especially waste in the sea. So this event was organized to promote sustainable tourism, to raise awareness of nature and environmental conservation. It also creates a harmony for co-workers in the industry,” he said.
In recognition of their collective responsibility to keep the island clean, more than 10 tourism operators at Koh Hei, mostly local Thai business people, joined the clean-up, Mr Suriya noted.
“This helps to create unity among the entrepreneurs and helps to develop sustainable tourist attractions. It also raises awareness of jointly maintaining natural resources and the environment. This is a major selling point,” he said.