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Similan And Surin National Parks Diving Paradises May Be Closed

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POLLUTION AND GLOBAL WARMING

Diving paradises may be closed

By The Nation

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is seeking the closure of two diving paradises, the Similan and Surin national parks after the coral there was found suffering from bleaching.

The scope of the corals destroyed from the bleaching has been wide and unless proper measures are issued, more coral would be destroyed by the phenomenon, said department director general Kasemssan Jinnawaso on Monday.

"The damage found on the coral for now is vast, probably the worst in history and certainly more than when The tsunami hit this area in 2004. The species affected are the Staghorn, Ring, Double Star and Mountain coral," Kasemsan said.

His department has already submitted a request to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department to close parts of Similan and Surin National Parks to prevent any further damage to the coral.

A cause of the coral bleaching is the rising temperature of the sea water, which has reached 30 Celsius since the middle of last year, he said, adding that waste and pollution from diving boats are also contributing to the phenomenon.

"Many divers are also contributing to the damage as they step on the coral," he said.

Surveys of the sites between September and December 2010 showed that 93.6 per cent of the coral at Surin Nua Island had died from the bleaching while almost 100 per cent of the reef near Mae Yai Bay had died.

Referring to Phi Phi, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh islands, Kasemsan said the coral there was also damaged by bleaching in vast areas, probably about 90 per cent of the reef.

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-- The Nation 2011-01-17

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I didn't realise things were so bad. Saw a lot of bleaching last year near Phi Phi, but nowhere near 90%. Unfortunately closing the parks to the public will more likely than not be an open invitation to illegal fishing boats to plunder the area. If there are no boats around to keep an eye open, that is what will happen. Corals are pretty resilient though so growth to current levels will probably take no more than 15-20 years for most species, though for some slow growing types it will be a lot longer. Very sad anyway.

Edited by ourmanflint

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They might want to consider banning all motor driven boats to approach Similan. There is more oil and gasoline floating on the surface of the ocean than in Klong Toei.

Nice rainbow of colors, but not really what you want to see in a natural park.

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I didn't realise things were so bad. Saw a lot of bleaching last year near Phi Phi, but nowhere near 90%. Unfortunately closing the parks to the public will more likely than not be an open invitation to illegal fishing boats to plunder the area. If there are no boats around to keep an eye open, that is what will happen. Corals are pretty resilient though so growth to current levels will probably take no more than 15-20 years for most species, though for some slow growing types it will be a lot longer. Very sad anyway.

WOW thats a lot, but closling the parks and in any way blaming divers is typical thai and ridiculous the only thing closing will do is cause many business's to suffer massive additional loss of business.

Years back in Belize we had the same problem water temepratures were very high and the corals were bleaching for those that dont know what that means its when live coral releases its algae as it starts to die due to the excessive warm water.

The problem was solved by a natural occurance, that was Hurricance Mitch which cuased massive damage but cooled the seas down and the corals recovered ove the next year and were bigger an better than they ever were.

Since Thailand does not have Hurricanes, not sure how nature will take care of this but it surely will in due course

DK

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Closure / part-closure could very well be going ahead. I know that a number of liveaboards are packing up after this season and relocating to Indonesian waters.

Maybe they've been given an early heads-up, or it IS so bad that they themselves know customers won't come.

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I worked as a dive Master at the Similians many years ago and as i recall divers do not use bleach.

Its the Thai fishermen that should be banned from the Park

All Divers are told NOT to step on the coral and most are aware of how fragile they are.

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Well, I have just been on a live aboard trip to the Similans and further north to Ko Bon, Ko Tachai and Richelieu Rock, not to the Surins though. As I used to be a instructor on a live aboard for a few seasons from 2004 - 2007 I know the dive sites quite well.

There is damage to the hard corals on the dive sites, mostly in the shallow area down to 15m. Soft corals are not affected. We haven't been diving at the east coast dive sites, such as East of Eden, as according to the guides the damage there is far worse.

Similans have some dive sites that have been closed for years, such as all sites at islands 1,2 and 3, as well as Fantasea Reef on island number 8. If the authorities are going to close some of the affected East coast dive sites would be a good idea, though they should re-open other dive sites again, e.g. Fantasea Reef, which is not a hard coral reef anyway.

What I feel is much worse, is the absence of sharks. When I did my first dives in Similan in 2004 and also after the Tsunami in beginning to mid 2005, there were Leopard sharks at every site. Also much more white tips and black tips, nurse sharks etc. During the years the number decreased and we had weeks without a shark sighting. During our recent trip at least 1 leopard and 2 white tip reef sharks.

You can find fishing nets and fish cages on many dive sites, especially after low season. The fisher men know exactly that nobody will stop them from doing so during the off season.

This is a much bigger problem IMHO

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I worked as a dive Master at the Similians many years ago and as i recall divers do not use bleach.

Its the Thai fishermen that should be banned from the Park

All Divers are told NOT to step on the coral and most are aware of how fragile they are.

Agree with you the fishermen are a bigger problem. It's also the sewage waste that goes into the sea, from islands such as Phuket, and especially Phi Phi. I remember the Red Tides we had a couple of years back, all around Phi Phi and than moving on around the Andaman sea.

Divers are not stepping on corals, snorkelers that are coming with the speed boats do.

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I was just at Surin and Similan during Christmas. I'd never been there before, and I was very disappointed. At Surin, coral and fish are almost non-existent around the beach areas; you have to take a longtail and find remote spots in order to see anything of quality. And of what I saw, Phi-Phi is MUCH better. The beaches are nice and quiet though.

As for Similan, the sea life and coral are just okay around Island #8 (Donald Duck bay) but still not as good as Phi Phi. At Island #4 there is no coral left, unless you count the dead coral resting at the bottom. The tour boats are constantly polluting the waters around the islands, mostly because tour boats are the only way to get to the Similans. There is a ferry, but it costs almost as much and takes 4 times as long.

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The Director General said this? How did he get his job?

There is *no* link between coral bleaching and diving. None. The presence of divers will *not* make bleaching worse. If you close the parks, this is what will happen:

* Bleaching goes unreported (no complaints => problem solved!!).

* Monitoring gets wound back, because nobody is complaining.

* Illegal fishing activity goes through the roof.

If he's worried about pollution he should get rid of the fishing boats instead. 95% of crap on the reefs is broken fishing gear.

The 90% bleaching is true of most sites I visited in the second half of last year. I would guess about 30% of that died or was badly damaged, the rest has mostly recovered now, I didn't see any bleaching remaining yesterday.

Edited by Crushdepth

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all this talk of an extra 200 fishing boats is quite scary,you can see fishing boats as far as the eye can see from khao lak.the dive centres there are strict on touching coral.the fishing boats have no controller.surely the moneys collected as park fees can get in specialists and tighten control.closure is not the answer,the fishing boats will have a free for all.to blame divers is a typical blame the farang .

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I dive all these sites regularly. I can say for sure the coral is in rough shape. The Irony is the divers are for the most part the most ecologically conscious groups of people out there. I am not a Thailand basher. In fact I usually read alot of this commentary with disgust at how much Thai bashing goes on by people who are living here as guests.

That said, I can't help but think divers are being singled out because they are tourists. Almost no Thais dive. I wager at everyone of these sights the fishing boats (who are not supposed to be there anyway, yet always seem to be) are responsible for 100 times the pollution of the dive boats. I have seen it with my own eyes. The saddest thing, is the largest factor in coral death is sudden water temperature shifts, which are beyond the control of anyone sitting in a boat. If the close the Similans I can say for certain Thailand's already suffering tourist trade will take yet another hit from shortsighted politicians. Of course, they could always restrict access by raising the park fees? I wonder if that is being suggested.

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Yep, another dumb solution from a bozo politician. The place will be decimated by illegal fishing if diving and tourism is banned.

It's quite sad.

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I dive all these sites regularly. I can say for sure the coral is in rough shape. The Irony is the divers are for the most part the most ecologically conscious groups of people out there. I am not a Thailand basher. In fact I usually read alot of this commentary with disgust at how much Thai bashing goes on by people who are living here as guests.

That said, I can't help but think divers are being singled out because they are tourists. Almost no Thais dive. I wager at everyone of these sights the fishing boats (who are not supposed to be there anyway, yet always seem to be) are responsible for 100 times the pollution of the dive boats. I have seen it with my own eyes. The saddest thing, is the largest factor in coral death is sudden water temperature shifts, which are beyond the control of anyone sitting in a boat. If the close the Similans I can say for certain Thailand's already suffering tourist trade will take yet another hit from shortsighted politicians. Of course, they could always restrict access by raising the park fees? I wonder if that is being suggested.

In Thailand obviously the problem are never the Thais, but always the tourists. If they close the islands completely, this would certainly kill the diving industry in Khao Lak and to a certain extend in Phuket. All the guys working on the dive boats now, could go working on fisher boats. At least for another 5 years, before the cleaned out the sea from every living thing.

Still, closing some of the worst affected dive sites and opening some of the closed sites would be a good idea. As long as divers are still allowed at the islands, the fishers are at least partially controlled.

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I was on the Similan two years ago. We arrived at the islands 1,2,3 short after nightfall , just to see hundreds of light of illegal fishing boats floating around and forming a ring around the islands. All this activivty happens all year round ( you just don t see it as in the daytime they hide and hardly any snorkeling- diving live aboursd are going into this area.

I noticed a lot of these fishing boats are leaking, and have poorly maintenanced engines, all leaking oil and fuels. Also , trash, broken fishing nets, waste, feces, all is thrown overboard. no wonder coral reef are suffering. I don t hink divers are doing much harm to the reefs. The intensive fishing inside a national park , paid with tea money into the hands of the few who are supposed to watch over the fishing ban, is the worst thing that ever can happen to the archipelago. We went to see all the island and around them of the Similan group, so I can speak for what I have witnessed. Around and near the anchoring spots for the fisheries, the water is shiney rainbow from all the leaked fuel. If Mister General wants to see results and protect the area, he is supposed to kick out all these illegal fisheries. Also, the decline of Tuna , Makarel, Barracuda and Sharks is a direct result of cutting right through the migration routes of these fish with big nets , literally sipping off all larger than a finger sea life.

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