Thailand Officials have announced they will increase their enforcement of environment-protection laws in order to protect their coral reefs from bleaching. Chinese and Russian tourists are at the forefront of these crack-downs as it was outlined that Phuket tours involving the Chinese and Russians have been a big contributor to their coral bleaching crisis.
Class Act Media report that this warning was put forward by The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in a meeting which included more than 70 people from Phuket tour operators, tour guides and government agencies. They order the feeding of fish or sea animals in the coral reef areas and stepping on the coral reefs as strictly prohibited. “Persons who fail to follow the above will be punished by law, which is a maximum of one year in prison, a fine of B100,000 or both,” Suchart Rattanareangsri, Director of the DMCR’s Conservation Division, warned.
This forms part of Thailand’s bid to combat coral bleaching and protect the environment.
This warning comes after more than ten popular diving sites in national marine parks in Thailand were closed indefinitely due to coral bleaching and popular beach and diving location, Koh Tachai, in the Andaman Sea was shut down. Thai Officials also announced all tourist activities would be banned at Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai, all islands off the coast of Phuket.
CNN report that this is due to coral bleaching being at its worst in over six years. A survey performed by the Marine National Park Division has shown that the bleaching has spread widely between 40% and 80% of the reefs along both the east and west coast of Thailand. Koh Chumpon and Koh Ma Prao are among the worst-hit areas with 80% of their coral bleached.
According to National Ocean Service, bleaching occurs when the coral comes under environmental stress such as runoff of fertilisers from the land, temperature of the water and sunlight. It causes coral to expel the algae in their tissue that is responsible for their bright colours and so they turn completely white.
The move puts the environment in front of tourism profit for the country. In Thailand, tourism accounts for 10% of its economy and around 70% of this income is generated by marine tourist activities. Officials were hoping to attract over 32 million tourists in 2016.