Thai marine parks cap visits

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BANGKOK, 27 April 2018: Thailand will limit tourist visits to marine national parks throughout the country to 6 million a year, according marine and conservation expert, Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat.

Thon serves as the deputy dean of the Faculty of Fishery at Kasetsart University in Bangkok and is an official advisor to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

He made the comments on his Facebook page, Thursday, saying the decision to cap tourist visits would be part of a “national reform strategy” for marine parks.

An outspoken critic who has often  chided the tourism industry for the negative impact on national marine parks, he says the damage to coral reefs that currently stands at 77% should be reduced to 50% over the next five years.

He welcomed the marine park department’s decision to cap tourist visits saying it would encourage marine conservationists across the country to campaign harder for change.

South Thailand’s Phi Phi island is a priority to reduce footfall from around 6,000 to 3,000 visitors per day. Most of the visitors arrive on day boat trips from Phuket and Krabi town. Hundreds of boats drop anchor daily in Maya Bay causing damage to sensitive coral reefs.

Around 66% of all visitors to Phi Phi island are Chinese followed by Koreans, Taiwanese, Malaysians and Singaporeans.

A ruling that all day trip visitors return with their rubbish rather than dumping it on Phi Phi island is ignored by boat owners. National parks are overwhelmed by trash, mainly food refuse and plastic that tourists leave behind.

In earlier interviews with both local and foreign media, Thon estimated that 2.5 million tourists visit Phi Phi island annually.

The island is part of a national park and its most popular tourist spot Maya bay will close to day trippers by boat, June to October, to give the coral and environment a chance to recover.

Thon claimed around 17 sites in 17 marine parks have been identified as urgently requiring critical attention to stop damage to coral and marine life.

He has warned of damage to the coral and marine life in the Similan islands where the most popular spots are closed for six months of the year to allow recovery. The closures resulted in improvements.

Meanwhile a group known as Phuket People on their Facebook page reported “black water’ pollution contaminating a water course that enters the sea on Patong bay.

Earlier this week, they posted photographs of what appeared to show black, polluted water flowing through a natural stream or river directly into the sea close to a sandbank.

Photo credit: Phuket People (Facebook).

The post read: “# Black Sea The water from the canal is flowing into the sea at the Coral Beach Bridge, which is very black and very foul-smelling today 24/04/61 at 1410 pm Patong Beach.”

The image is similar to photos and videos of polluted water flowing into the sea at Boracay island in the Philippines, which was closed to tourists as of today for a six-month convalescence period.