Thailand bans diving on damaged reefs
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News item dated
24 Jan 2011
Thailand attracts many types of traveller, drawn by the prospect of warm weather, spiritual enlightenment, cheap trinkets, spectacular diving and delicious food. Boasting some of the most stunning beaches in the world, Thailand offers soft sand, coconut palms and a vast ocean to entice all lovers of the sea.
Head a bit further offshore and you will find a whole other world of fascinating sea life that will blow the mind of any aquatic fan. Naturally, the coral reefs and diverse marine life have been drawing the crowds for years, but at what cost? With the influx of scuba divers to Thailand, the reefs are exposed to many pressures that threaten their existence.
In order to protect these amazing reefs and ensure their future survival, the Thai authorities have placed an indefinite ban on scuba diving in a number of popular marine parks in the Andaman Sea. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment have restricted access to areas where the reefs have suffered 80% bleaching in a bid to speed recovery. Whilst the bleaching is thought to be largely due to the rise in water temperatures, the extra stresses caused by scuba divers and boat anchors are thought to be too much for the reefs to handle in their shocked state.
Even though the dive industry generates a substantial part of the tourism industry revenue in Thailand, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister stated that the ban on scuba diving was essential and that income could be generated from other attractions like national parks. The ban will mean finding another destination for scuba diving holidays but it is a hopeful sign that the Thai government may be taking the threats to its ecosystems seriously.
At Frontier we take these risks very seriously and our work at Fiji includes surveying for coral bleaching in order to keep the local authorities informed about the stresses their reefs suffer.