11 July 2024

Ten marine parks in the Gulf and the Andaman Sea have been affected by moderate to extensive coral bleaching, forcing park officials to suspend aquatic activities, such as diving and kayaking, to protect the remaining corals and to allow the bleaching corals to rehabilitate.

According to Suthin Prompaland, chief of the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park in Surat Thani province, between 40% and 75% of the coral in the park have bleached, particularly in April when the situation was at its worst, due mainly to the unusual warmth of the sea water, measured at up to 32oC.

He said that the extensive coral bleaching has necessitated the suspension of marine activities in several tourist spots, such as at Samsao Island, Thalay Nai and Rang Island.

He said the suspension of marine activities has not, however, affected the tourists because they have been informed of the problem and the need to protect the corals, adding that he is optimistic that coral bleaching will ease in August, with the arrival of rains which will cool the sea water.

Besides marine activities, Suthin said that there are other options for tourists visiting the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, such as mountain trekking to a viewpoint where tourists can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the 42 islands that form the national park.

Wimonmat Nuipakdee, chief of Hat Khanom- Mu Ko Thalay Tai National Park, said that about 80% of the coral in the park has already bleached, with the worst situation being detected around Mud Kong Island.

She noted that sea water and land surface temperatures are unusually high this year, as manifested by multiple forest fires, adding, however, that the situation may ease with the arrival of rains.

A survey of the coral bleaching, conducted by the Office of National Parks since April, shows that 41 zones in 10 marine parks have been affected in three levels: 31%-50% in three zones; 11%-30% in 15 zones and 1%-10% in 23 zones.

The ten affected marine parks are Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet, Than Bok Khorani, Sirinart, Mu Ko Chang, Mu Ko Chumphon, Mu Ko Phetra, Mu Ko Similan, Mu Ko Surin, Mu Ko Ang Thong and Hat Khanom-Mu Ko Thalay Tai.