Thailand has banned diving to 22 sites in seven marine parks
on its west coast in the Andaman Sea to protect the deteriorating corals which
have suffered bleaching. Suan Arun Nopparat, chief of the National Parks Dept. has
closed the dive sites to enable them to recover. The weakened coral is particularly
vulnerable to damage by divers, boat anchors and buoys. The parks are also
reported to be stepping up their policing of illegal fishing.
Thailand’s reefs have been deteriorating for some time
?From 1979 – 1987 mangrove cover has been reduced by 25
percent in Thailand and the remaining 196,000 ha (Aksornkoae, 1993) are under stress
from farming, mining, salt farming and coastal construction. Thailand's
nearshore reefs are suffering from coastal development while offshore reefs
have relatively high coral cover. Domestic and industrial pollution from
Bangkok and Pattaya have almost totally destroyed the reefs in the northern
Gulf of Thailand.? Quoted from, Jameson, S.C., J.W. McManus and M.D. Spalding (1995) State
of the Reefs: Regional and Global Perspectives. International Coral Reef
Initiative Executive Secretariat Background Paper, US Department of State.
Coral bleaching is caused by stress-induced expulsion or
death of their symbiotic protozoa or due to the loss of pigmentation within the
protozoa. Once bleaching begins, it tends to continue even without continuing
stress. If the coral colony survives the stress period it often requires many weeks
or months to return to recover. Triggers include changes in water temperature, changes
in water chemistry because of pollution or run-off from land, changes in sedimentation
and physical damage.