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The Minister for National Resources and the Environment, Suwit Khunkitti

Phuket, Andaman Region Face More Dive Site Closures

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
MORE diving spots in the Phuket and Andaman region may have to be closed to save the region's diving industry, the Permanent Secretary of the National Resources and Environment Department, Chote Rachoo, said on Phuket yesterday.

He was speaking at a seminar that included the Minister for National Resources and the Environment, Suwit Khunkitti and about 30 dive company operators, tour boat firms and others with an interest in the region's coral reefs.

''We should close more diving spots or areas suffering from coral reef bleaching,'' Khun Chote told the meeting at the Metropole Hotel in Phuket City. He said laws may have to change to ensure that the region's reefs were saved for future generations.

If the coral was disturbed by too much activity, recovery would be slowed or not come at all, he said.

People in large numbers, boats, loss of fule and bad water all had an effect on already-damaged reefs, he said.

''If we close all the diving spots where bleaching has occurred, the diving industry will be seriously affected,'' he warned.

Marine biologists say more than 90 percent of reefs the region have been damaged by the bleaching, a natural phenomenon that struck in April and May last year when monsoonal cloud cover failed to arrive and the coral reefs overheated.

It was essential for dive operators, tour companies, national park rangers and marine biologists to work together to introduce a strategy for the survival of the reefs and the diving industry, Khun Chote said.

His comments echoed views expressed last week at a larger seminar in Khao Lak.

The areas that have suffered bleaching were being checked now, and more closures would come if that was what the experts considered needed to happen. Eighteen diving sites in seven Thai marine parks, six of them off the Andaman coast, were closed in January in a sudden move to protect the reefs from further damage from divers and snorkellers.

The Khao Lak meetin g heard that snorkelling groups, where guides often did not advise tourists about how to avoid damaging the reefs, were compounding harm caused by coral bleaching.

National parks are likely to structure quota systems and timed entry periods in a drastic move that will bring controls to the diving industry for the first time.

However, rangers have no control over coral areas outside the national parks, which may face higher traffic as soon as the new system comes into force.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Blah, Blah, Blah.
Kill your tourism with empty words, then what???

Posted by GrahamM on February 15, 2011 21:09

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We may say:
- In 2004, we had a tsunami...
- In 2010, we had coral bleaching...
- In 2011, We had Dr T... a marine biologist who want to close all dive sites....

Posted by Whistle-Blower on February 15, 2011 21:17

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It is a shame to close them, but will be worth it in the end.

Posted by katrina on February 16, 2011 04:09

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way too unregulated here

So many dive companies needs something and yes the blah blah from divers on fishermen yes that needs regulating to and both will have to be done to enable future generations to enjoy the underwater parks.

I was in Phang Nga bay in 1989 with a bunch of guys Thai and Farangs and we did a two week trip to escape ramadan, our fisherman captain took us to Koh Hong Krabi then caled Koh Belay, the beach you see where all the speedboats land used to be pure staghorn coral and the fishermen would only go in at High tide and come out at high tide, because they knew the fish grew in the coral, its buisness men operating fishing boats with low paid and uneducated burmese operating them that are to blame not the local fishermen

Posted by Michael on February 16, 2011 06:16

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Katrina, would you please explain to me what does diving have to do with coral bleaching ?

How does closing divesites stop that ?

The comments made by the Permanent Secretary of the National Resources and Environment Department, Chote Rachoo, are rubbish.

He doesn't have a clue of what he is talking about.

Only valid point made is that unsupervised snorkelling causes damage to the corals, but snorkellers don't go to dive sites.

You don't snorkel in 30m deep water so closing divesites does nothing to prevent damage from snorkellers.

Coral bleaching is beyond the control of any single organisation. Rising sea temperatures cause that.

Illegal fishing, especially with drag nets, causes immense damage to coral and marine life. A single net dragged over a reef will easily break off coral from several sqm, before getting premanently entangled and becoming a death trap for fish.

Far more destructive is dynamite fishing. One stick can level 20 sqm of coral. Just dive about 50m east beyond Koh Bon Ridge and you can see it for yourself.

Similar destruction can be found all over Similan.

Whenever divers are not present, illegal fishing explodes in the national parks.

I have personally destroyed several fishing traps in the Similan NP.

The big question here is why are the park rangers turning a blind eye to the illegal fishing that is happening right in front of their eyes.

This is the issue Khun Suwit and Khun Chote should tackle instead of closing the dive sites.

The dive industry is willing, can and has tried to catch illegal fishing vessels by turning in evidence to the Similan NP HQ in Takua Pa but nothing has been done.

Divers "patrol" Similan day and night. Many have underwater cameras. Evidence can be gathered and presented.

Dive industry can be a solution to this problem if the authorities would just listen to them.

Posted by Chris on February 16, 2011 14:22

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looks like kun Suwit is holding up the wrong finger to the dive companies

Posted by mikey on February 16, 2011 23:06

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Diving affects the reef by adding more stress to the already decimated reefs around Phuket.

If you dive around here with any regularity you will witness divers with poor buoyancy control stumbling into the corals.

I've seen (on numerous occasions) Discover Scuba Divers literally (not figuratively) being dragged across reefs. that's right with their fins being dragged across the corals.

Touching, grabbing, chasing, poking. Not just by divers but by DMs wanting to display something to their clients.

The dive industry as it now stands has a huge impact on the reefs around Phuket.

And before you tell us of your long history of diving and educating and blah blah let me say: Great! Congrats you are one of the few.

Posted by TVH on February 22, 2011 20:01


Thursday June 4, 2020
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