Volunteer Divers Revive Andaman Reef, Bangkok Post, 11/16/06
By Peerawat Jariyasombat
Source: Bangkok Post
|Coral raised in nurseries are planted to iron bars tied to concrete blocks erected on the seabed.||Volunteer divers on coral rehabilitation mission around Phi Phi Island in Krabi.|
Joining hands with experts, volunteer divers are helping revive marine life and rehabilitate coral reef damaged by rising tourist activity in the Andaman Sea.
Late last month, over one hundred divers from Bangkok jumped off boats off Phi Phi Island and descended to the seabed to lay down concrete blocks, to which they tied iron bars and affixed fragments of coral grown in nurseries. They are hoping that coral thus raised will ultimately attach to the supports and in due course grow into colonies attracting various marine life forms that are conspicious by their absence or diminishing presence in this part of the sea.
All in all the divers planted 600 fragments of coral and Dr Nalinee Thongtaem, a marine biologist at Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) said, "I am sure more than 80 percent will survive."
Fun diving is quite a popular activity in the Andaman Sea where colourful coral reef abound. However, the activity has led to deterioration of coral stock since they are extremely sensitive to even the mildest change in their environment and temperature. That amateur divers have a tendency to touch or feel them does not help their cause.
In the past coral rehabilitation was the preserve of marine biologists. But after the tsunami hit southern Thailand two years ago causing extensive damage to coral reefs that required urgent action on a vast scale, volunteer divers chipped in admirably and now they are an integral part of the rehabilitation task force.
"However, divers should know that coral rehabilitation is not as easy as reforestation. Several factors have to be taken into consideration such as light, currents, turbidity, salinity and temperature, human activity, sedimentation and substrate on which coral thrives," said Dr Nalinee.
PMBC has been involved in coral rehabilitation east of Maiton Island, about five kilometres from Phuket. Concrete cylinders were laid in various configurations to serve as substrate for coral larvae. After six months, new coral colonies had started to settle. Now 12 years later, all concrete substrates are covered by various species of coral.
PMBC benefited from the Israel experience in Red Sea where tiny fragments of coral were grown in nurseries suspended in water to avoid possible damage from coral-grazing creatures and sedimentation, which improved their chances of survival.
Presently, PMBC has coral nurseries at Cape Panwa and Ko Hae island in Phuket, and Phi Phi Ley in Krabi.
Divers wishing to support coral reef rehabilitation can contact PMBC at 076-391-128.