Reef diving off Phuket’s Shark Point near the King Cruiser wreck. Most Thai coral is endangered from activities including human destruction, plastic pollution and bleaching. (Screen Grab YouTube/Kiwidiver Dive Center)
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The total area experiencing coral reef damage in Thailand has increased from 30% to 77% in just one decade, according to marine ecologist Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat.
Asst Prof Thon, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, said 77% or 140,000 out of total 107,800 rai of coral reef area in the Thai seas is in a sorry state, with unhealthy coral reefs expanding at an alarming rate.
In 2008, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said 42,000 rai (30%) of total 140,000 rai of corals was devastated.
Asst Prof Thon blamed tourism and polluted water released by beachfront hotels, resorts and residential houses as the main cause for the unhealthy coral reefs.
He added the situation was also exacerbated by plastic trash dumped in water, which can infect coral and cause them long-term harm.
Asst Prof Thon singled out water contamination as the largest contributor to the degeneration of coral reefs in the country, as only 30% of polluted water goes through waste water treatment process.
Besides, reefs were also being damaged by sediments from landfills along coastal areas, he said.
“All of this [the degeneration of corals] is a result of man-made pollution, especially the influx of tourists which is not being handled properly. Over the past two or three years, Thailand has had no problems about coral bleaching, but the degeneration has continued to this day,” Asst Prof Thon said.
The marine ecologist also voiced his concern over the 77% damage to the country’s coral reefs, which in his view is a considerable figure.
Meanwhile, Petch Manopawitr, a scientist of the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, pointed out to plastic waste as a cause for coral diseases.
He said Thailand was ranked the fourth in the world among countries which produce the most amount of marine waste, according to an assessment by US-based non-profit marine conservation group, Ocean Conservacy, last year.
He said plastic waste in the Thai seas has worsened the health of corals and referred to a latest article in Science magazine about research which found out that coral reefs digest plastic garbage and suffer as a consequence.
Mr Petch added that previous research jointly conducted by Cornell University, James Cook University and Prince of Songkla University in 2014 showed coral reefs can be damaged by plastics.
The research was conducted on coral reefs on 159 locations in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Australia.
In related development, Worapot Lomlim, chief of Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park, said on Saturday the authorities would inspect coral reefs around Koh Bida Nok in Krabi today.
The move comes after a complaint from locals that a group of Japanese tourists brought vinyl boards to the water and took photos with corals there, which may have caused damage to the coral life.