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Phuket marine center moves to save bleached coral



PHUKET: The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) will today request that parts of the Similan and Surin national parks be closed to protect dying corals there.

DMCR Director-General Kasemssan Jinnawaso announced yesterday that his department would file the request with the National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department, which manages the national parks.

“We will request closure of only certain parts within the Similan and Surin national parks. Tourists will still be able to dive in the parks, but certain parts will be off-limits to allow the coral to recover,” Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) Director Wannakiat Thubthimsang told the Phuket Gazette last night.

“Officers in the parks will need to be more strict about park regulations, especially with tour boats and visitors dumping trash into the sea. We are still finding tourist trash, such as empty water bottles, beer cans and snack packets floating inside the parks,” Director Wannakiat said.

“Also, all boats entering the park must have septic tanks installed and operators will face stiff penalties for discharging their tanks inside the park,” he added.

The new measures being proposed are to protect corals already suffering from rising sea temperatures.

“Coral bleaching is from global warming, which is happening the world over. The ideal average sea water temperature for coral to grow is 29°C, but last year the average temperature at these dive sites rose above 30°C, and peaked around 33°C,” he explained.

“Coral needs zooxanthellae to survive. When temperatures rise, the zooxanthellae starts dying, and that means the coral starts dying, too,” he said.

Director Wannakiat explained that coral needs three to five years to mature to at least have a chance of surviving long enough for the zooxanthellae to return.

However, there will be no request to close the reefs off Phi Phi Island and Maithon Island, he added.

“The dominant species of coral there grows fast. The bleached areas there will take probably only a year to recover,” he said.

— Samaporn Janyanon


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