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Thailand’s Coral Reefs

Thailand’s coral reefs are generally in excellent condition. Many National Marine Parks have been created to help preserve the reefs and locally much is done to educate fishermen and boat captains to use low impact fishing methods and mooring buoys, rather than to drop anchor onto live coral. Within the National Marine Parks, fishing is only permitted to local fishermen and is discouraged around the major dive sites.

Thailand’s Coral Reefs support 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral, thousands of plants and animals and are home to one in every four marine species. Thailand’s coral reefs also provide vital protection for shorelines against erosion, storm and wave damage. Thailand’s coral reefs provide an incredible diversity of beneficial medical pharmaceuticals, and contain compounds found to help fight heart disease, asthma, leukemia, viruses, cancer, and HIV.

Approximately one quarter of the world’s coral reefs lie in Southeast Asian waters, and the Andaman Sea is home to the most diverse collection of marine life in the world. The coral reefs we see today in Thailand are the result of a process that started 240 million years ago and each reef forms a complete eco-system – the oldest and most productive eco-systems on earth. If the balance of these ecosystem are disturbed it can wipe out whole sections of this delicate system.

Thailand’s coral reefs rely on the photosynthesis of marine algae, which forms the basis if its food chain, so a large amounts of sunlight is required in order for a reef to form and flourish. For this reason coral reefs are usually found in fairly shallow water (to a maximum depth of 70-100 m for most corals). Pollution, rubbish dumping, silt run-off from rivers, ozone depletion, and global warming all contribute to reef degradation by blocking light necessary for coral growth and introducing toxins and poisons that injure coral reef life.

Aside from their environmental importance, Thailand’s coral reefs are extremely important to fishing industries, local economies and tourism.

Thailand’s Coral Reefs attract millions of visitors each year. Tourism is the largest industry in the world, bringing billions of dollars to local economies and sustaining 10% of all jobs on earth.

In 1992, tourism associated with Thailand’s coral reefs generated over 27 times that generated by the world’s marine fisheries. Yet we are contributing to the loss of this vast resource at an alarming rate. Scientists estimate approximately 25% of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed. If current trends continue, we risk losing the entire remainder within the next 30-50 years.

Thailand is attracting more and more visitors each year, and greater numbers of people are trying scuba diving. This impacts on some of the more popular dive sites with increased numbers of inexperienced divers being more likely to cause damage to coral by inadvertently banging into parts of the reef if their buoyancy is not so good.

If you haven’t dived for a while, it’s a good idea to take a refresher course and do buoyancy check in the pool before taking a dive trip out to the reef. In this way we can help to protect Thailand’s coral reefs for generations to come.