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Thailand protects marine eco-system in Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Governor Somdee Khachanyangyuen has announced that parts of Mu Koh Chumphon National Park in Thailand have closed indefinitely to allow corals that have been affect by bleaching to recover. The Department of National Parks (DNP) ordered the closure of the popular scuba diving sites at Koh Ngam Noi, Koh Maprao, Koh Kula and Koh Rad, following a recent survey of coral reefs.

Thailand protects marine eco-system in Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Coral bleaching continues to devastate fragile coral reefs across the world, and the latest victims are reefs in the Mu Koh Chumphon National Park in Thailand. Four islands in the park have been closed due to damage caused by bleaching.

The provincial governor Somdee Khachanyangyuen announced last week that the Department of National Parks (DNP) has ordered the closure of Koh Ngam Noi, Koh Maprao, Koh Kula and Koh Rad, all popular scuba diving and snorkelling sites.

During a recent survey of several marine national parks in the Gulf of Thailand, large areas of coral bleaching and widespread bleaching of staghorn corals were found at these four sites. By closing the areas to human activities, the delicate corals will have a better chance to replenish and recover. Staghorn corals are particularly sensitive to bleaching and are some of the most vulnerable to the changing conditions of coastal areas.

The head of Mu Koh Chumphon Marine Park, Rakpong Boonyoi, announced that as well as the closure to scuba divers and snorkelers, all fishing activities will be banned at the islands. He added that while tourism in these areas will be affected, tourists can still visit other sites in the park including Koh Ngam Yai and Hin Pa.

The Mu Koh Chumphon National Park spans an area of 80,000 acres covering beaches, islands and the sea. Established in 1989, the park has become one of Thailand’s most popular attractions and every year, thousands of people visit to scuba dive and snorkel in its turquoise sea, and relax on the white-sand beaches.

There are more than 40 offshore islands including Koh Ngam, Koh Same, Koh Mattra, Koh Thong Lang, and Koh Langka Chio, and the surrounding waters are home to extensive coral reefs and a myriad of marine creatures. These include sea turtles, dugongs, whale sharks, dolphins and thousands of colourful fish.

Coral bleaching occurs when the sea temperatures rise and the corals expel the algae that lives in its tissue and gives its colour and nutrients, causing the coral to turn white. Pollution, overfishing, human activity and chemicals from sun screen all contribute to coral bleaching, but if the affected areas are caught in time and protected, the corals can go on to replenish and recover back into good health.

Due to global warming and rising pollution in the world’s oceans, coral bleaching is spreading, and recently affected areas include the Maldives and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Several marine conservation organisations are working to raise awareness and protect affected marine parks around the world.

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