|Photo by Freeimages.com/Bianca Venter|
by Gavin Haines, The Daily Telegraph, June 1, 2016
Thai officials have banned holidaymakers from visiting parts of three popular islands in a bid to protect coral reefs from tourists.
The waters off Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai are renowned for their colourful coral displays and are popular with day-trippers from nearby Phuket.
But the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) claims up to 80 per cent of reefs there have been degraded and has decided to issue the ban.
“A tremendous amount of corals have been damaged and getting them to recover is very difficult,” DMCR regional chief, Watcharin Na, told the Bangkok Post .
Coral reefs around the world have suffered from a mass coral bleaching event this year, caused by a combination of El Nino – a naturally occurring weather pattern – and rising temperatures due to global warming.
However, tourism activity is heaping even more pressure on these beleaguered ecosystems in Thailand, which is expected to welcome 30 million international visitors this year.
“The reasons for coral damage in the Koh Khai area is from the coral-bleaching process, which occurs naturally, and from human activity,” said Watcharin Na. “This includes the increasing number of tourists, boats that anchor on the corals, people walking on corals while playing in the water, feeding marine animals and catching them to take photos of with them.”
Before the ban at least 60 speedboats a day were visiting the islands, according to the DMCR, which has also closed some of the islands’ beachside shops and restaurants.
The news comes a fortnight after Telegraph Travel reported that tourists would be banned from visiting the island of Koh Tachai in October, due to fears that they were damaging the local environment.
Though these are steps will be greeted by conservationists, our destination expert, Tom Vater, says the country still has much more to do.
“Some of the country's most stunning locations, such as the well known Phi Phi islands, have long succumbed to serious degradation due to too much commerce and resort construction,” he said. “With 30 million international visitors expected this year and a growing domestic tourist industry, the pressure on Thailand's beauty spots invariably increases.”
This article was written by Gavin Haines from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.