RSSAll Entries in the "Eco-Area" Category

Ko Lanta Dive Sites Unaffected by Closures

Healthy Coral Reef from Lanta Dive Site Ko Haa today

Plenty of coral reefs remain healthy in Thailand. Many top dive sites are still open. Photo taken at Ko Haa today.

All Ko Lanta dive sites remain open after reports that many of Thailand’s top dive sites are to be closed today, due to coral bleaching that occurred at shallow depths during the El Niño period in May 2010.

Healthy Corals - Photo taken today at Ko Haa

Healthy Corals - Photo taken today at Ko Haa

The director of the Department for National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in Thailand, Sunan Arunnoparat, announced yesterday that eighteen diving and snorkelling sites, located mainly off the west (Andaman) coast of Thailand, will be closed for up to 14 months to allow coral, damaged by unusually high sea temperatures in May 2010, to recover.

The dramatic move was announced last night following a meeting in Bangkok that included marine biologists and researchers.

Dive sites listed to close lie within 7 of Thailand’s 148 National Parks and include sites within the National Marine Parks of; Ko Surin, Similan, Phi Phi, Petra, Tarutao, Chumphon and Hat Chao Mai.

It’s unclear how individual sites were chosen for closure. Although many of the sites listed are within high-profile marine parks that are famous for attracting large numbers of divers each year, none of the actual sites listed as banned are among the major diving destinations in Thailand.

The two sites listed for closure nearest the Ko Lanta area are, Ko Chuak – sometimes included as part of the popular 4-Island Snorkelling Tour, and Hin Klang – a snorkel site near Ko Phi Phi. All other sites remain open for diving and snorkelling.

Closures are due to begin today (Friday 21st January 2011). Divers or snorkeller breaching these closures could incur penalties of 1,000 – 10,000 THB (equivalent to US$30 – US$300).

Dive Sites to be closed due to Coral Bleaching

An announcement, welcomed by many marine environmentalists, stated that Thai authorities have also vowed to step up patrols to stop illegal fishing and increase moorings at spots not affected by the closures, aimed at reducing damage done by boats anchoring on, or using destructive fishing practices, near reefs. There is no indication as to how these steps will be enforced. For decades, illegal fishing has continued on and around marine parks, even though divers have been calling on the authorities to enforce protection laws.

Fishing Net Kills Coral Reef

Scuba diver gently removes a huge fishing net abandoned over a dive site at Ko Rok before it chokes the reef to death

“More than half of southern Thailand’s 15,000 hectares of coral reefs are suffering from the effects of bleaching”, a phenomenon caused largely by rising sea temperatures over an extended period. “We will study the cause and effect and find a way to restore them,” said Sunan Arunnopparat, director of the Department of National Parks.

Many local dive operators in southern Thailand are actively involved in reef monitoring projects in collaboration with Project AWARE, Greenfins and the Phuket Marine Biology Centre in order to study and limit the effects of global warming and coral bleaching.

Diving and snorkelling operators often play a vital role in local communities struggling to cope with growing levels of tourism, communicating reef conservation techniques and environmental awareness to both members of the local community and visiting diving and snorkelling tourists.

There appears to be some controversy in media coverage as to whether or not diving impacts reefs damaged by coral bleaching and why action is being taken so long after the event. Marine conservationists at last night’s meeting, are said to have blamed unregulated tourism – walking on coral, mooring boats over reefs and contaminating the water in the Andaman Sea, a region that draws thousands of tourists each year to enjoy it’s beautiful beaches and reefscapes. Sunan Arunnopparat said global warming was at fault.

A survey by Phuketwan today showed that the diving industry feels it has been made a scapegoat for the continuing failure of authorities to properly protect the reefs from illegal fishing and reef fish poachers.

It’s unclear why the widespread occurrence of coral bleaching has only just come to the attention of the authorities. By taking a look at the latest NOAA HotSpot report from yesterday – you can see that Thailand is not currently experiencing high sea temperatures.

Coral Bleaching HotSpots for Jan 2011

Compare this to their report at the end of May last year:

Degree Heating Weeks Report May 2010

Manta Ray at Hin Muang

Manta Ray at Hin Muang - Photo taken today

Current media coverage seems to incude scant focus on the fact that there are vast areas of coral reef in Thailand that are undamaged or well on their way to recovery, despite the unusually warm water temperatures some 9 months ago.

Water temperatures right now are actually a degree or two colder than normal for the time of year and reefs located further south in Thai waters are positively flourishing at the moment.

Famous dive sites Hin Daeng & Hin Muang are attracting Manta Rays in numbers not seen for many years. There have been multiple Manta sightings every day for almost 2 months and both marine and coral life is positively glowing.

Coral bleaching, (the whitening of coral as it loses its natural pigment), is caused by a rise in sea temperatures which has been linked to global warming and El Niño.

Corals start to feel stressed when the sea surface temperature is more than 1°C above the average we expect to see in the hottest month.

During May last year, sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea rose to 34 degrees Celsius or about 4 degrees C above the long-term average. Even more important for corals, is build-up of warm-water stress over time. NOAA also maps this cumulative stress by adding up the HotSpots over a 3-month period. These are called Degree Heating Weeks (DHWs), which pinpoint areas where corals are at risk for bleaching. The status is updated twice per week, and the data is posted to the Coral Reef Watch website for the public to access.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program's satellite data Scientists use the NOAA Coral Reef Watch system to monitor coral reefs around the world – this data is available on Google Earth.

NOAA operates two polar-orbiting satellites, each with an infrared sensor that detects the temperature of the ocean’s surface. Because the satellites constantly orbit the earth, they measure the water temperature around the entire globe each day.

Using this technique NOAA maps ‘HotSpot’ areas that are higher than the expected maximum. Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scales provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching. When bleaching conditions occur, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions.

Coral bleaching is a growing global concern and the fact that the Thai government is taking this phenomenon seriously has got to be a good thing. Whether it’s a step in the right direction or a nail in the coffin of Thailand’s diving industry, action does need to be taken. By raising public awareness we have a better chance of taking the global steps desperately needed to slow down or reverse effects of global warming. It’s a shame that there is not a greater focus on controlling and enforcing illegal practices that would have a far more immediate and tangible benefit to Thailand’s reefs, rather than attempting to overcome mother nature.

Safe Our Fins Event – Join us to save the sharks!

Shark Fin Race

Grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament, to help raise awareness about shark finning. We’ll meet on 17th July, 5.30pm at White Rock Resort, Klong Nin Beach.

The event is organised by Scubafish, Narima Diving, Blue Planet Divers and Fish4Divers.com. Posters and shark-fin shaped leaflets in Thai and English will be distributed around the island the publicize the event and Ko Lanta’s dive centres come together to form teams and enthuse their divers to take part. We’d like to invite all divers, locals and holiday-makers from all over Ko Lanta to grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament.

White Rock Resort & Mr. Bean are supplying free beer and curry for the participants. And we guarantee lots of fun!

Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is very often still alive when it is tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks toward the bottom where it suffers predation from other fish, starves to death, dies from blood loss or suffocates and drowns, since most sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Sharks can take hours or even days to die after being finned.

Fishermen are mainly interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and this conserves room in the hold. Up to 99 per cent of the shark is thrown away, a process as wasteful as slaughtering an elephant for its tusks.

Shark Fin Race

Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy which is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous texture for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. It has also been shown to contain high levels of mercury which is detrimental to our health. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes.

Sharks’ life history makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Sharks take between 7 to over 20 years to reach maturity, and produce few young over long lifetimes meaning that it takes populations a long time to recover once depleted. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Sharks are “apex” predators, eco logical stablisers, when they are removed from the ocean the entire eco-system suffers.

Please say “No” to Shark Fin soup and join our three-legged fin tournament to show your support for sharks!

Coral Bleaching Occurring at Shallow Depths

Coral Bleaching at Ko Haa

Coral bleaching is occurring at shallow depths in dive sites throughout the Andaman Sea. According to the Bangkok Post, coral reefs off Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga, including popular scuba diving sites such as the Similan, Surin and Phi Phi islands, have been damaged by the phenomenon.

The bleaching could get worse if sea temperatures continue to rise, says Niphon Phongsuwan, a marine biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC). The bleached corals may die if they cannot tolerate the stress, but if we’re lucky – and the monsoon winds come soon, those corals that are bleached already might survive and recover as was the case in 2003.

Temperatures in the Andaman Sea have stood as high as 31-32C for a long period this year and we are seeing temperatures as high as 33C in the shallow areas at Ko Haa, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, Ko Rok and Ko Phi Phi.

Coral reefs in shallow waters at depths of up to 10m will take three to four years to recover. Coral at greater depths will take more time.

Coral bleaching is the whitening of corals, due to stress-induced expulsion or the death of zooxanthellae – symbiotic, algae-like micro-organisms. Under stress, corals may expel their zooxanthellae, which leads to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term ‘bleached’. Coral bleaching occurs when the conditions necessary to sustain the coral’s zooxanthellae cannot be maintained. If the coral colony survives the stress period, zooxanthellae often require weeks, or even months, to return to normal density.

You can report instances of coral bleaching to the NOAA Global Coral Reef Watch Project. Please follow this link to submit data: http://www.reefbase.org/contribute/bleachingreport.aspx

Other organisations that support coral bleaching monitoring include:

Tourists Top Tips To Diving

Ko Lanta is known for its breath taking and diverse diving. Here are some top tips we think can help you have a fantastic stay while you enjoy your much deserved dives.

  1. Research the dive centres you are interested in. They may look good on the outside but what are they doing behind the scenes? Find out what they are doing to help Lantas environment on land and in the sea.  See if they are trying to maintain an eco friendly dive operation, i.e recycling, clean ups, anchoring, green fins.
  2. The dive boat will be a way to relax throughout the day. How many passengers does the boat hold? What lay out is there? What area do you have for gearing up when your getting ready to dive?
  3. The staff – Its always great to see a friendly face, try and meet a few members of staff so you know who you will be sharing your day with
  4. The dive sites – Ask for an update on the sites conditions.Visibility and current can have a massive impact on the dive. How many will be in your group and will they be at the same level as you
  5. Lunch!!! you need to keep your energy up while diving so find out what refreshments they have on board. Its always good to find out whats on the menu if you have any dietry requirements
  6. Familys – Can you bring your children on board and if so what areas have they got to keep them entertained! Will there be lifejackets onboard for them? Can you snorkel instead of dive?
  7. Equipment – if you dont own your own equipment, the equipment rental is an important one to enjoy your dive comfortably. Make sure the dive centre has your correct sizes and ask what condition the equipment is in.
  8. Prices – Cheaper is not necessarily better, you usually pay for what you get with diving so with all the questions above you should find the dive centre which suits your individual needs

Who ever you decide to dive with we know you will have a fantastic time exploring our sites. Ko Lanta has alot to offer so make sure you are prepared to have the time of your life!

5 day forecast

friday 05.02.10 – 36 degrees
saturday 06.02.10 – 35 degrees
sunday 07.02.10 – 36 degrees
monday 08.02.10 – 38 degrees
tuesday 09.02.10 – 39 degrees

Protect Lanta’s Coral Reefs

There are many practical things you can do to help protect Lanta’s Coral Reefs:

Snorkeller at Ko Haa

Christmas Tree Worm

  • Dive carefully in fragile aquatic ecosystems such as coral reefs. Many aquatic organisms are delicate and can be harmed by the bump of a tank, knee, camera, the swipe of a fin or even the touch of a hand. By being careful you can prevent devastating and long-lasting damage to magnificent dive sites.
  • As a diver, practice good buoyancy control and avoid over-weighting so you do not bang into the bottom or parts of the reef whilst diving. Be aware of your body and equipment placement when diving and make sure your gauges and equipment are secured to avoid accidental contact with the reef, and never touch, stand on, or collect coral.
  • Keep your dive skills sharp with continuing education. Before heading to the reefs, seek bottom time with a certified professional in a pool or other environment that won’t be damaged. Refresh your skills and knowledge with a PADI Scuba Review, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course or Project AWARE Specialty course.
  • Consider how your interactions affect aquatic life. Resist the temptation to touch, handle, feed and even hitch rides on any aquatic life. Your actions may cause stress to the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behaviour or provoke aggressive behaviour in normally non-aggressive species.
  • Be a role model for other divers in diving and non-diving interaction with the environment. As a diver, you see the underwater results of carelessness and neglect. Set a good example in your own interactions and other divers and non-divers will follow suit.
  • Do not touch any living organism under the water. Coral takes a long time to grow and forms a delicate ecosystem, which can be damaged by even the gentlest touch. Never stand on or hold on to any coral. Some completely healthy corals may look dead or even just like rocks, so never assume you can touch anything. Fish have a protective layer. If you touch them you can damage this protective layer and cause them skin infections.
  • Do not put anything into the water, or over the side of the boat. Feeding fish can disrupt their natural feeding habits and even affect their behaviour. Sergeant Major Fish now come to snorkel sites & dive boats in much larger schools that they ought and act more aggressively, constantly searching for food and sometimes nipping at snorkellers. This is a direct result of large numbers of snorkel boats throwing bread and rice over the side to attract fish for the snorkellers to see.
  • Do not collect shells, or coral as souvenirs. Taking a shell from a beach can deprive a hermit crab of a home. Dive sites can be depleted of their resources and beauty in a short time. If you want to return from dives with souvenirs, consider underwater photography. Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from coral or any threatened or endangered marine species.
  • Do not fish at dive sites. Thailand’s national park regulations clearly state that no marine live is to be removed from their parks. If you hunt and/or gather game, obey all fish and game laws. Local laws are designed to ensure the reproduction and survival of these animals. As an underwater hunter, understand your effect on the environment and respect the rights of other divers in the area who are not hunting.
  • As a diver or snorkeller, choose tour operators that use mooring buoys or drift diving techniques whenever possible rather than anchors that can cause reef damage.
  • Learn more about the underwater world and share your knowledge with other people. The more people understand and care about coral reefs, the more likely they are to help protect and care for them. And, don’t forget you can make a difference every day. Dispose of waste properly and collect debris each time you dive or visit the shoreline.

This information has been complied with the help of Project AWARE.

International Clean Up Day 2009

beach-clean-upDid you know that over 6 million tons of debris enter the oceans and sea each year causing harm to the underwater environment and wildlife? Over 80% of all marine debris is plastic – it’s estimated that 1 million plastic bags are used every single minute around the world. In Thailand alone, plastic bags make up 15% of all waste with a staggering 18,000 tons of used plastic bags being disposed of every day.

International Coastal Clean Up day (ICC) fell on the 19th September this year. The ICC started back in 1986 with 1800 volunteers; today it is the largest volunteer network worldwide. In 2008, 390,881 volunteers in 102 countries collected 3,090 tons of debris from shorelines around the planet. It is now supported by Project AWARE, the Thai Department for Marine Coastal Resources, Greenfins and a multitude of local and international organisations.

Pulling a Fishing Net out of the sandHere in Kantiang Bay, Ko Lanta, Scubafish, together with Baan Laanta Resort, Phra Nang Lanta Resort, Pimalai Resort, Same Same But Different Restaurant, Drunken Sailor’s Cafe, Why Not Bar, Win Jeang Surf Clothing Shop, The Narima Bungalow Resort and Eyes Lanta Resort, managed to recuit over 200 volunteers to muck-in and get dirty to help keep Kantiang Bay beautiful and plastic free.
With plastic accounting for over 80% of all marine debris, our focus this year aimed to specifically highlight the need to reduce plastic bags use. With Event Sponsors funding re-useable, non-plastic baggies for every volunteer to take home, we hope to provide a practical alternative – ‘Do Something Drastic – Say No to Plastic’.

With this in mind, a series of environmental and educational events were organised.
• Day 1: Klong Hin School: Environmental Activities and Educational Talks with 100 students from the school.
• Day 2: Ba Kantiang Bay: Beach Clean-Up and Village Clean-Up with over 200 local residents volunteering to help.
Out of respect for the local Muslim community, these events were postponed a week until the end of Ramadan and therefore took place on 24th & 26th September 2009. This year’s activities were a resounding success and three times more people than last year turned out to join in the community spirit.

Day 1 [24/09/09]: Ban Klong Hin School: Environmental Activities and Educational Presentations.
Scubafish and Narima Diving staff were very excited about spending a day back at school! Children ranging from 4-11 years were divided into 4 teams for the days activities: Pla Tao (Turtle), Pla Shallam (Shark), Pla Mook Jak (Octopus) and Pla Hoi Kong (Nautilus).
Four environmental and educational stations were set up in Ban Klong Hin School for each group to visit, with the aim of demonstrating human impact on the environment and providing the kids with responsible rubbish disposal strategies to help reduce their impact.

Station 1 ‘Trash Timeline’: A rope time-line was set up to represent the amount of time it takes for rubbish to breakdown. Markers were placed from 2 – 1000+ years and each group had to walk along the rope and place common items of rubbish, found around the Kantiang area, at the point on the timeline they thought it would be broken down. Greenfins posters were then distributed and the group then rearranged the articles into the appropriate time bracket, and identified which of the items could be recycled, here on Ko Lanta.

Station 2: ‘Living Reef’: A video presentation in Thai that included excerpts from the Project AWARE Living Reef video, the IOSEA (Indian Ocean South East Asia) Turtle Memorandum video and local underwater footage from some of the dive sites in the Lanta National Marine Park, aimed to demonstrate global coral reef environmental issues, Sea Turtle Conservation specific to our local species and responsible fishing techniques that can be adopted to help sea turtles and other marine creatures – all practises that can be easily adopted by local communities to reduce the impact of humans on our marine environment.

Station 3: ‘Plastic Perils’: We adapted a Greenfins presentation about Plastic Bags to be more accessible and fun for the children, and to be more Thailand specific, encouraging the kids to think about practical ways they could reduce their own impact on the tragic trash problem.

Station 4: ‘Sea Scenes’: Each child drew their favourite underwater creatures and reefscapes. Their amazing creations were later mounted on a seascape board and placed on display for the beach clean up.

To fuel the day’s events, Pimalai and Phra Nang Lanta Resorts generously provided a yummy lunch and ice cream for all 100 students. In the afternoon, The Octopossible Band from Why Not Bar entertained one and all, performing an adaptation of a popular song (Yar Ting Kaya) used as a TV campaign in Thailand around 10 yrs ago, concerning river pollution in Bangkok. The lyrics were altered to relate to Ko Lanta, mention the sea, the fishermen and appeal more to children by mentioning arriving home from school! All the students soon joined in… “Ar ar ar – yar ting kaya, Tar wi sed hen na, Ting ka ya hai pen tee pen tang” (“No No No – Don’t throw your rubbish on the ground, Magic eyes can see what you do, Throw the rubbish in the right place, please.”)
Even a small change in thinking by the next generation, can make a huge, long term difference and disseminating this information to the kids is of vital importance and is, as we say, ‘Sanuk Maak’ (very fun!).

Day 2 [26/09/09]: Kantiang Beach & Village Clean-Up.
In partnership with Project AWARE, Pimalai Resort & Spa and Same Same But Different Restaurant, Scubafish recruited 206 volunteers to collect debris and rubbish from the beach and Kantiang Village. All equipment (gloves, bags, water, ice coffee, rubbish trucks) was provided along with a video briefing on safety and collection guidelines. Three separate groups of volunteers were assigned different areas to clear, including the river, the beach and the main village street. The debris was collected and information was catalogued and recorded, (e.g. drink cans, smoking-related activities, clothing, plastics etc.) to help identify the general sources of marine and coastal debris. All trash was then weighed on the Scubafish, home-made, balance scale, which became somewhat of a live show creating much intrigue, amusement and participation by the children. The scales were constructed from articles from around the dive shop, and compared the weight of each bin bag of collected debris to standard lead dive weights. The work was hard, hot and dirty but astoundingly 3,528 kgs of rubbish was collected in under an hour and a half!

Results showed that, around the Kantiang Bay area, shoreline & recreational activities accounted for almost 400 cigarette butts, 720 plastic bags, 382 glass bottles, 314 beverage cans, more than 700 straws and stirrers, almost 1,000 caps and lids, more than 300 food wrappers & containers, and unpleasantly, over a hundred diapers! Rubbish left through ocean & waterway activities included almost 50 fishing nets, over 1,000 different pieces of rope, and more than 20 light bulbs/tubes.

Scubafish and Narima Diving are proud members of Greenfins Thailand, who are joint Thailand coordinators of this event, along with the DMCR (Department of Marine and Coastal Resources). It will be their responsibility to collate all the ICC data from clean-ups like these around the country for both the Ocean Conservancy and Thai government departments.

Scubafish and Narima Diving would like to say a huge thank you to the following organisations for their generous contributions and time in sponsoring this event:

Pimalai Resort & Spa, Same Same But Different, Baan Laanta Resort, Phra Nang Lanta Resort, The Narima Bungalow Resort, Eyes Lanta Lifestyle Resort, Drunken Sailor’s Cafe, Why Not Bar, and Win Jeang Surf Clothing Shop.

We would also like to thank the following organisations for their support of this event: Ko Lanta Yai District Office, Klong Hin School, Kantiang Bay View Resort, Aqua Bar, Lanta Marine Park View Resort, Shroom Bar, 9 Art Gallery, Simply Life and Drunken Tailors.

SCUBAFISH is a small, eco-friendly, PADI 5 Star, Gold Palm, IDC Centre located on Kantiang Beach in the South of Ko Lanta, Thailand. Offering expert guidance and instruction with an emphasis on relaxed and personal service both above & below the water, we are ideally located to offer some of the shortest journey times to Lanta’s top diving destinations.