Snorkellers slammed for damaging coral for photos

Snorkellers slammed for damaging coral for photos

Pictures of snorkellers posing on coral have prompted warnings that areas of damaged coral must remain off-limits in Thai seas. (Photos from the Facebook page of Jirapong Jeewarongkakul)
Pictures of snorkellers posing on coral have prompted warnings that areas of damaged coral must remain off-limits in Thai seas. (Photos from the Facebook page of Jirapong Jeewarongkakul)

Marine scientists have criticised snorkellers who allegedly sat on undersea coral for photographs in a southern bay declared off-limits to allow for coral rehabilitation.

Jirapong Jeewarongkakul, former marine scientist at WWF Thailand, wrote on his Facebook page early Thursday that a group of tourists defied an entry ban in Ao Mae Yai bay of Surin Islands in Phangnga province.

The area is closed to allow for the rehabilitation of bleached coral. A tourist sat on coral to pose for photos, and ignored requests that she leave the area - even arguing that she was merely sitting on a rock, Mr Jirapong wrote. 

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine academic at Kasetsart University, wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation was informed of the matter and its National Parks Office was launching an investigation.

He said Ao Mae Yai had been one of the densest coral colonies in the country, and has been closed since 1995 due to coral bleaching. The closure would allow the regeneration of marine life that lived on coral, he said.

"On a big coral reef, there is no 'rock' - only dead coral that provides a habitat for creatures so tiny they can't be seen with the naked eye. Stepping on, sitting on or touching the coral in any way disturbs that process.

"There are many places on earth you can pose for pictures without breaking rules or harming our little undersea friends," Mr Thon said.


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