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The Reef Today – Latest Photos

A collection of the latest underwater photos from Ko Lanta’s reefs. Stay up to date on what diving conditions are like right now. Photos are usually updated daily and are from today or yesterday’s dives.

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Please visit the Liquid Lense Flickr photostream to view more images from Liquid Lense.

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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:

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.