Sunday, January 23, 2011

Most Dive Sites Remain Open in Phuket & Similans

Khao Lak Dive Operators Forum Official Statement to the confusion surrounding aspects of the sudden closure of a number of Andaman dive sites. The Forum represents 26 Dive Operators in the Khao Lak Area.

Due to higher than normal sea water temperatures in 2010, some of the hard corals around the Similan and Surin Islands have been damaged by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is a well-known phenomenon and has occurred several times in various parts of the world over the past century. The term covers an event where the symbiotic colored algae living inside the coral are released due to stress (high temperature, for example). When the algae have been released, the coral appears white, hence the term ''coral bleaching.''

If you would like to have more information about coral bleaching please click on the following link to see a presentation from Dr Mark Eakin, the Coordinator of NOAA's Coral ReefWatch program.

In the Similan and Surin Islands, the highest impact has been on hard corals in shallow water, where the sea temperature is generally higher than in deeper water. Members of the KLDOF have been very happy to observe a speedy recovery of certain types of coral, especially soft corals, which appeared to have suffered from the bleaching effect as well. Corals located deeper than 12 meters have suffered no or very little damage.

We as dive operators are passionate about the environment in which we live and work. Therefore we are very concerned about the condition of the reef. It is proven that there is absolutely no connection between diving and coral bleaching, but we feel the need to be even more careful around the reef to prevent further stress.

With more than 25 named dive sites, the region offers ample opportunity to dive and snorkel. Our recommendation would be to temporarily close the dive sites most affected in the Similan Islands, namely East of Eden, Beacon Reef and Breakfast Bend.

These dive sites are located on the east side of the islands. Dive sites on the west side have only been minimally affected and have many colorful corals and a wide range of marine life.

Famous dive sites such as Elephant Head Rock, Koh Tachai Pinnacle, and Richelieu Rock still offer great diving. The stag horn coral at Koh Bon has been affected; however there have been a record number of Manta Ray sightings this season.

In addition, we think it would be worth considering re-opening some of the dive sites around the southern Similan Islands, such as Fantasy Reef, which has had a number of years to recover.

Simultaneously, the KLDOF has contacted several scientists, organisations and universities specializing in monitoring and improving coral health. In previous coral bleaching events there has been successful recovery of damaged reefs, as the temperature drops.

Projects are being started to monitor the development of the corals and other individual projects are ongoing.

We will continue to observe all rules and regulations implemented for this region and offer our assistance to the National Park Head Offices involved. Additionally, we will re-enforce our strict rules for visiting divers on the boats operated by us, in terms of the policy ''absolutely no touching, feeding or harassing marine life and no rubbish thrown overboard''.

We, the dive operators and dive community in Khao Lak, are eager to do everything within our possibilities to protect and conserve the wonderful underwater world.

Khao Lak, Thailand, January 22nd, 2011

My opinion:
Similarly to any of the past events across the planet, major medias are always taking simple announcement and blow it out of proportion. Here is the list of a few mis-leading articles currently published across the Web, without much facts or actual researches in regards to the closing of reef in Thailand. It is highly recommended that you contact local dive centers and operators for 'REAL NEWS':

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