Thailand Marine Conservation Project – July 2007
So, July has been and gone, and we are into August already – how time flies when everyone is hard at work and having fun! Looking at the reef and beach clean-up figures I see we have hit some fantastic milestones in our mission to keep Krabi and the surrounding seas cleaner. Starting with the land based clean ups, the volunteers have cleaned three local beaches; Ao Nam Mao, Klong Muang and Ao Tung, collecting 339.7kg of rubbish in total. This amount brings us to an accumulated annual total of just over 4000kg of damaging debris removed from the local beaches – a highly impressive figure in just seven months.
Amongst the more unusual items found this month were a guitar, a printer cartridge, 2 coat hangers, part of a toilet seat and a syringe, of which the latter was separated so as to be incinerated at Krabi hospital.
There were five specific salvage dives this month to collect fish traps, anchors and large fish nets spotted on previous dives that were too large to remove during the dive, so the location of the items were marked for later retrieval. At Koh Ya Wa Sam a fish trap weighing 13kg was collected with the use of lift bags. At Loh Ba Gao, 11kg of fishing net was removed along with some plastic bags and rope.
And, as we hadn't been back to Mu Sang Nua for a couple of months due to the weather, we made it a mission to go survey the stunning reef that, in our experience, always has the most amount of fishing nets caught round the corals, sea anemones and a whole host of other marine animals. Unfortunately for the reef, our assumptions were right and there was again a lot of discarded net damaging the reef; in two dives we collected 25.2kg of fishing net and line, and also removed an anchor weighing 8kg, giving us a monthly reef salvage total of 60.9kg, and a 7 month total of bang on 500kg! So, clear evidence of some superb and dedicated clean up work from both the present and past volunteers. Great work.
On to the rest of the dive programme, as well as the usual progression of newly arrived volunteers through their dive courses, there has been a good mixture of animal and coral identification training, some Reef Watch surveys conducted, and other dive skill training in the areas of buoyancy, air consumption and distance estimation – all competencies that help volunteers become better conservation divers. Some of the exciting species spotted by volunteers this month include 2 hawksbill turtles, 2 banded sea snakes, a number of leopard, blacktip reef, and bamboo sharks, 2 juvenile harlequin sweetlips, 2 peacock flounders in the sand, a stout spine murex and several tigertail seahorses.
There was one week of horrendous weather which prevented us going out diving on two days, one of which was made up the following week and the other was substituted for a trip to the Krabi Fisheries Department in Ao Nam Mao which has recently re-opened after refurbishment. It now has a well laid out and interesting walkway through their aquarium so the volunteers were able to see the various anemonefish, seahorses, barramundi cod and other marine animals that the Fisheries Department are breeding. In the afternoon, we all went on a trip to Nam Tok Ron, a National Park an hour and a half from Ao Nang where there are some natural hot springs. It was a fun outing with everyone enjoying the change of pace from the normal workload and, for many, the new experience of splashing about outside in 40 degree river water.
Work in the mangroves continued with four days during July, one of which was spent clearing more ground at our research site in preparation for another batch of seeds, and followed the next day by building the two shade structures and filling over 200 bags with soil. Another day volunteers helped the local community at Baan Thung Prasan expand their own nursery and move many bags with seeds in to the frames to keep them in place whilst they grow into saplings. On the final mangrove day the longer-term volunteers were joined by the five volunteers here for the first 2 week summer programme.
We all went to Baan Thung Prasan to hunt for fallen seeds, and having been informed that there were many Xylocarpus granatum seeds ripe for picking, we specifically went looking for these to add to our research nursery. However, after spending a fair few hours in knee deep mud we could only find 142 of these seeds that were root free, whereas many had spread out a few of their roots already; it seems we were possibly a week too late which was slightly disappointing and frustrating as we needed 800 to plant under the various conditions required for our research. As well as the Xylocarpus seeds, we also collected 243 Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and 74 Heritiera littoralis seeds; again not enough for any of our experiments so we dropped them off at the community centre for the locals to use in their own nurseries.
For the 2 week volunteers, the mangrove day was the last activity of a busy week in which they all gained their Open Water Diver qualifications around the local islands near Krabi, as well as having a day's diving over at Phi Phi where learned to identify various coral forms and types of fish. As well as the diving, they went on a canoe trip at Bor Tor, where caves with ancient cave paintings are to be found amongst some of the best mangroves in the region. Following this, they went on to Khao Lak, probably the most badly devastated area during the 2004 tsunami, where they had a tour of three sites that had been hit badly but had now been rebuilt; the only hint of the force of the waves being large boats stranded inland up to 3km from the beach. They also did a beach clean up on one of the local beaches, collecting many bags of rubbish. As the tsunami memorial centre, which has photos of the event and the rebuilding projects implemented since, was on the same beach the volunteers visited this also. So, a fun-filled couple of weeks for all involved, which hopefully generated the love for diving and enthusiasm for protecting the marine environment that the 2 week programmes are geared towards.
As soon as the first group of 2 week volunteers departed, we welcomed another one, this time of 8 volunteers, all eager to get started on discovering the underwater world of Thailand. With the weather staying uncannily calm for this time of year, we hope that we are able to stick to the planned itinerary as it worked so well the first time round - I will have more to report on this at the end of August.
3rd August 2007
Director for Thailand Conservation