Researchers are looking into the potential returns from certifying Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Trat, Trang and Pattani provinces as a means to make money to help endangered marine species.
It is hoped the results will provide empirical evidence to secure fresh funding for environmental protection and management policies which should yield a profit later on, said Wiparat Dee-ong, the NRCT director.
Orapan Srisaowalak, an independent researcher, said the research aims to analyse whether environmentally friendly policies that also limit commercial activity can ultimately turn a profit and benefit the public as well as provide an additional layer of protection for ocean habitats.
She said Trat’s gulf is known to be the habitat of Irrawaddy dolphin, a rare species that is seldom spotted in Thailand. Many endangered marine animals also are seen along Trang’s coast in the South, such as Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises and dugongs.
Koh Losin in Pattani is listed as an off-shore MPA where many coral reefs are intact and a crucial source of food for rare fish such as whale sharks, guitarfish and manta rays.
Ms Orapan added that Koh Losin has been prone to damage by human activities such as fishing and tourism.
She said the budget to manage the MPAs in Trat, Trang and Pattani would be 671 million baht. However, the cost does not include compensation for fishermen if new fishing-prohibited areas are announced.
There will also be budgets for planting seagrass and mangroves as well as sea mammal protection, she added.
The benefits of endorsing MPA policies and management are increasing revenue from coastal fisheries, higher carbon credit value from seagrasses and mangroves and non-use value of rare marine species found in MPAs.
Although previous research into these areas indicated that society will gain less than the money spent on marine animal protection, those results were based on non-use value which might not reflect the actual worth of the lost wildlife and reduction in long-term economic potential in the future, added Ms Orapan.