Asia Dive News : Thailand's Phi Phi Island coral under threat
Coral reefs around Thailand's famous Phi Phi Islands, situated off the coast of the southern province of Krabi, have been found heavily damaged, following a diving exploration survey on coral reefs in the area, according to Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC).
The Phi Phi Islands, known as the 'Jewels of the Andaman' and 'Mu Ko Phi Phi' among Thais, is a cluster of six islands in Mu Ko Phi Phi-Nopparathara National Park, including Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Le, Bamboo Island, Yung Island, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), only Ko Phi Phi Don is inhabited, while the other islands are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status, despite being frequently visited as day trip destinations from Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Don.
Biological Centre academic Nalinee Tongtaem said the diving exploration found bleaching or dead coral reefs in double and triple quantities compared to the living ones around the islands, especially near such important tourist attractions as Maya Bay, Tonsai Bay, Long Beach (Hat Yao), Rantee Bay, and Laem Tong Beach.
She said coral reefs in other areas are in a moderate condition.
The death of coral reefs or coral bleaching were due to rising sea temperature which caused the bleaching and finally death of coral, particularly to shallow-water species such as Staghorn coral (Acropora spp.), of which about 90 per cent was deceased.
Ms Nalinee said the coral reef bleaching this time caused more damage to the coral than when some parts of the islands were hit by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Numbers of tourists still go snorkeling along the coral reef bleaching area without accurate knowledge in exploring coral. Some visitors used their feet and walked or even stamped on the reefs, and in some areas traces were found of ships' anchors being dropped on to the reefs.
In order to protect the coral and prevent more damage done, the marine centre will ask tourism operators for their cooperation to control the number of visitors at the coral sites and to give them an orientation to coral preservation before letting visitors come close.