Thailand Closes 12 Marine Parks Following Coral Bleaching Crisis

Thailand has shut down twelve national marine parks in response to widespread coral bleaching attributed to global warming.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Patcharawat Wongsuwan, hurried to Phuket to assess the situation as concerns over coral reef bleaching escalated.

On a visit to Phuket on Wednesday, Patcharawat, who also serves as deputy prime minister, along with Rachata Pisitbannakorn, the vice minister of environment, received updates from Chidchanok Sukmongkol, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

During the briefing, Patcharawat learned that the coral bleaching is linked to increased sea temperatures caused by the El Niño climate event.

Chidchanok explained that the bleaching began in April and is expected to persist until July, varying in severity across different coral systems depending on their location.

According to Chidchanok, half of the coral reefs in the Gulf of Thailand are now bleached, affecting popular tourist islands like Koh Tao in Surat Thani and Koh Kram in Chumphon.

He noted that the situation in the Gulf of Thailand was more critical than in the Andaman Sea, where 20% of coral reefs are impacted, mostly in shallow waters up to two meters deep.

Coral bleaching happens when warmer waters cause the colourful algae, known as zooxanthellae, that live inside corals to be expelled or perish.

To protect the reefs, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has indefinitely closed the following twelve parks:

– Mu Koh Chang National Park

– Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samed National Park

– Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park

– Hat Wanakorn National Park

– Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

– Hat Khanom-Mu Koh Thalay Tai National Park

– Mu Koh Surin National Park

– Sirinat National Park

– Ao Phang Nga National Park

– Than Bok Koranee National Park

– Hat Nopparat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park

– Mu Koh Lanta National Park

Concerns about the bleaching were first raised by marine environmentalists and tourists who shared photos of colour-drained coral reefs.

Notably affected was Hat Lang Khao Beach on Koh Libong in Trang’s Kantang district, where once-vivid corals have turned grey or bone-white.

Krabi’s prominent environmentalist, Siranat Scotch, reported that the bleaching is spreading across reefs near islands in Krabi’s Mu Koh Lanta National Park, including Koh Rok, Koh Kai, Koh Ha, and Koh Hong, with bleaching occurring in waters up to five meters deep.