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Thailand closes ten more scuba diving sites close in national marine parks

Thailand has closed more than 10 scuba diving sites in its national marine parks due to coral bleaching. The bleaching of the corals is the worst it has been in six years, and 40 to 80 per cent of the reefs along the east and west coasts of Thailand have been significantly affected, resulting in the closure of diving sites to help protect the fragile ecosystem.

Thailand closes ten more scuba diving sites close in national marine parks

Coral bleaching has led to the closure of more than ten scuba diving sites in Thailand’s national marine parks. The conditions of the reefs are the worst they’ve ever been in more than six years, despite closing many sites off to holidaymakers and scuba divers.

According to Nattapol Rattanaphan, the Director of the Marine National Park Division (MNPD), between 40 and 80 per cent of the reefs on the east and west coasts of Thailand have been affected by coral bleaching. The worst areas to be hit are Koh Ma Prao and Koh Chumpon with 80 percent of their fragile coral reefs having turned white as a result of the bleaching. Rattanaphan commented:

"Sea temperature has been unusually high, reaching 34 degrees Celsius at one point. This happened around early April to early May this year and lasted for several weeks."

Coral bleaching occurs when stressed coral forces out the colourful algae which lives inside and nourishes the plant. This causes it to lose its colour and it then becomes vulnerable to damage. If the coral is unable to regain its algae it will starve and die. The bleaching is often caused if the temperature of the water goes above 30.5 degrees Celsius and continues to stay at this temperature for two or three weeks.

The damage to the coral reefs on the east and west coasts of Thailand is said to be caused by the unusually high sea temperatures caused by El Nino; excessive human activity near the reefs; and water pollution. El Nino is the occurrence of warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, and it is during this time that reefs in the Pacific region reefs undergo the worst coral bleaching.
The popular island of Koh Tachai in the Andaman Sea was closed by the Thai authorities recently, who believe that irresponsible behaviour from tourist activities has led to the damage of the ecosystem.

The Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation believes the island’s high visitor numbers have resulted in litter and food waste problems and the leaking of fuel into the sea from tour boats.

Three other islands have also been closed indefinitely - Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai – and the government has added another 10 popular scuba diving sites to the list as including those found at the islands of Koh Ma Prao and Koh Chumpon, where up to 80 per cent of the corals have been severely affected.

The coral reefs are a vital part of the marine ecosystem and if coral bleaching continues, this will have an adverse effect on reef-based fisheries, the coastline’s exposure to bad weather, and other marine species who rely on the reefs for their habitat.

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