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Phuket officials scramble to save Coral Island after tourism kills 75% of reefs

PHUKET: The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) will seek Cabinet approval to urgently implement coral-protection measures at Coral Island, off Phuket’s southeast coast, as early as next month.

tourism, marine, natural-resources, environment, economics, Chinese,


Tanyaluk Sakoot

Saturday 1 April 2017, 09:00AM


If approved, the move will empower the DMCR to seal off reefs to prevent tourists and tour operators from causing further damage.

The news comes after researchers confirmed that over-tourism has reduced the number of corals to just 25% of what was at the busy day-trip destination 10 years ago.

DMCR Director-General Suthilak Rawiwan confirmed to The Phuket News last Friday (Mar 24) that she will appeal to Cabinet within weeks to invoke Section 22 of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act B.E. 2558.

A Section 22 appeal will empower the DMCR to take drastic measures to preserve what remains of the reefs at Coral Island, known in Thai as Koh Hae. Any persons found guilty of breach of Section 22 will face up to two years in jail, a fine of up to B200,000, or both.

“Koh Hae has already been badly affected by tourism and it is now getting worse. In fact, the problems at Koh Hae are now at a critical level,” Ms Suthilak said.

“The DMCR now has a plan to use the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act to control tourism in the area and reduce any further risk of damage to the marine environment,” she added.

Watcharin Thintalang, Director of the DMCR Phuket office, said the move to protect the corals at Koh Hae has been a long time coming.

“I initially wanted to use Section 17 to protect the reefs around Koh Hae, and held a public meeting in December to explain this to local residents as well as tour companies, tour guides, local vendors and longtail boatmen,” he said.

Mr Watcharin compared the move to protect reefs at Koh Hae with the measures taken at Koh Maithon, just a handful of kilometres away.

“I don’t want Coral Island to be like Koh Maithon, which was very popular for the tourism industry – until the corals there suffered damage. Those reefs are now closed to visitors to allow the marine life in the area to regenerate,” he explained.

C and C Marine

To be included in the appeal to Cabinet will be reports from Dr Nalinee Thantham, the lead researcher at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre division dedicated to studying corals along the Andaman coast.

“The reefs at Coral Island have suffered damage from the tourism industry since at least 2007,” Dr Nalinee said.

“We keep records of coral environments along the entire Andaman coast, and Coral Island has suffered a lot of damage, especially the reefs in Kluay Nay and Yai Bay, which are popular tourist sites. Human activities there cause damage through anchors being dropped on the reefs, ‘try dives’ (with tourists walking on corals) and waste dumped into the sea.

“Last year our research confirmed that only 25% of the original 0.44 square kilometres of reefs measured about 10 years ago are still alive,” Dr Nalinee explained.

“Coral Island used to be the centre of marine life in the area with 20 to 30 types of corals, but now there are only four types of corals left. The reefs at Coral Island need to be protected,” she insisted.

Mr Watcharin noted that several bureaucratic hurdles had yet to be cleared, but still expected the reef-protection measures to begin in April.

“After Cabinet approves the move, we need to send detailed maps and descriptions of the protection measures to the Phuket Provincial Committee,” he said.

“The restrictions to be discussed will include limiting the number of visitors to Coral Island as well as zones where try dives and ‘sea walk’ tours are banned,” he said.

“After the Phuket Provincial Committee process has been completed, the proposal must be supported with an official order from Bangkok, then we can start deploying buoys to protect the area,” he added.

 

 

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LES | 03 April 2017 - 20:13:20

Its the operators of boats trips and their number and greed that has caused this, not tourists. No forward planning, the same can be said of waste water going in from the klongs in Patong, then into the bay.Too much rapid development with little of no control.
 

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Rorii | 03 April 2017 - 14:37:33

Kurt, you are correct, the reason being, it would be an admission that they are failures, lazy and useless, they sit in their office, get paid and achieve nothing.

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Kurt | 03 April 2017 - 09:37:15

Why did DMCR-Phuket failed many years to PROTECT the reefs?
I guess we never will get a answer on that question.

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Asterix | 02 April 2017 - 13:41:20

The strong message written in ThePhuketNews is a good warning for the Thai Autorities and the professionals in tourism but for all readers and tourists it may be understood as a strong warning that all coral reefs and fish are gone and therefore that it is not the best seaside holiday destination for snorkelers and divers to come for holiday in near future.
By the way, that article may turn away many tourists for a while with a big lost of incomes for many professionals in the tourism industry in the Andaman Sea.

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Bigaresort | 02 April 2017 - 06:49:17

To little to late.Let them (Touroperaters)have Coral Island and try to save the rest.They will go there anyway and there is nothing to do about it.There Bosses are the ones you have to deal with to change and why should they ? Horst  

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BenPendejo | 01 April 2017 - 13:17:49

Too little too late.  As per usual, the lack of forward thinking, planning and capable management of natural resources provides yet another example of Thailand killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.  The problems leading to this are much more far-reaching then blaming it on tourists.  Try looking at pollution and unbridled greed on the part of tour operators that has been going on for a long long time.  Note to Thai officials..."You don't scramble to save coral reefs".  This area needs to be shut down for years to come. 

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Rorii | 01 April 2017 - 11:19:44

Why has it taken so long to do anything, well actually nothing has yet been done, only more talk, the answer is very simple... money money money, brown envelopes, corruption, laziness, influential people etc. If the DMCR is responsible, for "protecting" the reefs then they have FAILED in their duty, shame on you all.

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