Finally, they moved forward and allowed seawater to engulf them. With eyes ahead to the blue and green expanse of the Andaman Sea stretched out before us, they soon swam way, with cheers and waves given by onlookers on the beach.
The turtle release took place recently on Koh Racha Yai, south of Phuket, where a boat brought participants of Seiko’s Save the Ocean project ashore. Five green sea turtles and five hawksbill sea turtles under the care of Phuket Marine Biological Centre were released on that day.
Afterward, the team returned to the boat to put on their wetsuits and tanks. It was time for a dive to check out coral reefs.
“In the shallow water, it was very typical of what I see in a lot of places in the world,” said Fabien Cousteau, aquanaut, ocean conservationist and Seiko Prospex’s global brand ambassador.
“Climate change impact is devastating. It shows a very significant impact in that one location. This is not unique to Thailand. It’s unfortunately becoming more and more common everywhere.”
Many may know Cousteau from the undersea expedition Mission 31, where he and the crew lived in an undersea laboratory for 31 days in the Florida Keys to explore the area and collect scientific data. His assessment of the reef was based on his perspective of the diving spot in Ao Siam of Koh Racha Yai.
Seiko’s Save the Ocean project has been held for the past three years. It was previously known as Save the Sea, and was launched in 2016. The project makes use of the proceeds from the sales of Seiko Prospex Zimbe to give back to the ocean that inspired the collection.
“Seiko has been in this country for over five decades,” said Katsumi Kubota, managing director at Seiko Thailand.
“I can say that Seiko has been very much loved by the Thai people. Thank you for all the support. For the past three years, Seiko has been delivering a Thai limited edition called the Zimbe, which is Japanese for ‘whale shark’. We want to give something back to the ocean, and so that’s how we started this activity.”
This year, the project has become more global, with the inclusion of Cousteau and his team. The activities the team got to take part in included the release of sea turtles and an ocean cleanup. The team of divers, Cousteau included, was also inspecting the coral-restoration project that was part of Seiko’s corporate social responsibility project out in Ao Siam. From the expert analysis, the coral restoration in deeper water seems to be “working”.
“The temperatures were probably a little lower. There was still enough sunlight and nutrition in the water. The corals are growing pretty well and are much less affected. So that was very nice to see.
“[All sea life] depends on coral reefs. So even if you’re not a conservationist, even if you’re not a scientist, this is still extraordinarily important for the fishing industry, tourism industry, general ecosystem and the economy of the country,” he added.
According to Kanokkittika Kritwutikon, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Phuket Office), Phuket welcomed over 14 million tourists last year.
“Phuket is considered one of the main travel destinations in Thailand, second only to Bangkok. Our attraction is the Andaman Sea,” said the TAT director. She added that she was very pleased to see a project like Save the Ocean coming in to help with the local environment and sea life. She thanked Seiko Thailand’s initiative. Aside from inviting international travellers to stay in Phuket, and hence spend in the local economy, she said this effort will also attract more environmentally-conscious tourists to the area.
“This activity has shown that we share the same goal in making Phuket the preferred destination that is popular to tourists around the world,” she said.
The ocean and all its marine life are indeed priceless natural assets for all. Cousteau insisted that it will take every one of us, especially the younger generation, to become caretakers of this planet’s ocean. He also encouraged everybody to try diving – responsibly, of course – at least once in their lives. The undersea adventure is a kind of experience that nothing can really come close to.
“We’ve explored less than 5% of our oceans to date, over the last hundred years of modern-day exploration. There’s a lot left to discover.”
– Melalin Mahavongtrakul