Thailand shuts 12 national marine parks amid coral bleaching crisis

Image from The Nation Thailand/ANN

BANGKOK (The Nation Thailand/ANN): Thailand has closed 12 of its national marine parks following the discovery of widespread coral bleaching blamed on global warming.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan rushed to Phuket to monitor the situation amid mounting concerns over bleaching of coral reef ecosystems.

Patcharawat, also deputy prime minister, visited Phuket on Wednesday with vice environment minister Rachata Pisitbannakorn to be briefed on situation by Chidchanok Sukmongkol, deputy director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).

Patcharawat was told that the coral bleaching was caused by rising sea temperatures linked with the El Niño climate phenomenon.

Thailand shuts 12 national marine parks amid coral bleaching crisis

Chidchanok reported that the bleaching started in April and would continue until July, affecting some coral systems more than others according to their location.

He said 50% of coral reefs in the Gulf of Thailand were bleached, including at tourism islands like Koh Tao in Surat Thani and Koh Kram in Chumphon.

He said the situation in the Gulf was more serious than in the Andaman Sea, where 20% of coral reefs were affected mainly in shallow water up to two metres deep.

Coral bleaching occurs when warmer water prompts the colourful algae living inside corals, called zooxanthellae, to be expelled or die.

Thailand shuts 12 national marine parks amid coral bleaching crisisAs a protective measure, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has closed the following 12 parks until further notice: Mu Koh Chang National Park; Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samed National Park; Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park; Hat Wanakorn National Park; Mu Koh Chumphon National Park; Hat Khanom-Mu Koh Thalay Tai National Park; Mu Koh Surin National Park; Sirinat National Park; Ao Phang Nga National Park; Than Bok Koranee National Park; Hat Nopparat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park and Mu Koh Lanta National Park

The alarm was raised by marine environmentalists and tourists who posted a series of photos showing coral reefs drained of their colour. Areas affected included Hat Lang Khao Beach on Koh Libong in Trang’s Kantang district, where corals renowned for their vibrant colours have turned grey or even bone-white.

Trang tourism operator Jittapol Tananusorn said the phenomenon has shocked both locals and tourists.

Siranat Scotch, a well-known environmentalist in Krabi, said the bleaching was also spreading through reefs off islands in Krabi’s Mu Koh Lanta National Park in Krabi, including Koh Rok, Koh Kai, Koh Ha, and Koh Hong. He said the bleaching is occurring in water up to 5 metres deep.

Thailand, Coral, Bleaching, 12 Marine Parks, Closed

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