Diving & Marine Conservation Volunteering in Thailand - Monthly Updates
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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update July 2008
There has been a lot going on this July with up to 11 regular volunteers as well as 15 volunteers joining the '2-week special' program at the end of the month.
In addition to our usual activities, we have also been on a 3-day trip to Koh Jum to do some environmental education with the two schools on this island, went to he fisheries department to help maintaining their facilities and Chane and I have had a number of meetings to prepare for the International Coastal Clean-up campaign which will take place in September and October.
The trip to Koh Jum took place from the 6th until the 8th of July. We organised this trip after being contacted by Koh Jum Villa (KJV) resort who had read about us in the Krabi Magazine. They said that there was a big marine litter problem and a lack of environmental awareness on the island. Even though the island is being developed at a high rate, with many resorts being built, people still have a very traditional lifestyle with no electricity supply (other than gasoline generators) or bitumen roads. Most families' income is from fishing or rubber tree plantations.
We planned to spend one day at each of the two schools, giving presentations and playing games and do a beach clean-up with both schools on the last day. So after spending a day at the house preparing all the games and equipment, we set off for a one hour drive to Laem Kruat on the 6th early in the morning.
At Laem Kruat, we had to load all our equipment and 10 of us onto a longtail for a 40 minute trip to Koh Jum. Miraculously, we managed to get everything to the school without any damage but we were a little bit surprised to find no-one at the school. After a few phone calls, we realised that the longtail driver had taken us to the wrong school so we had to find a pick-up truck to take us to the right one!
Once we reached the school, everything went well: Knot gave his presentations and the volunteers played games with the children which they really enjoyed. We also got them to draw pictures of mangroves to participate in the Mangrove Action Project art competition which will judge pictures from children all around the world. Some of the kids had gone extra early to school because they were so excited about our visit to their school!
At the end of the day, we had to walk to our bungalows about 15minutes away as the truck which was supposed to carry us around the island had broken down. We were all a bit exhausted by the time we reached there but it was right in the beach so we all went for a refreshing swim.
At the second school, things were not so well organised: it took nearly an hour to find a room, there were nearly 100 children, up to 13 years old when we had told the school that we could only handle 70 children from 9 to 11, and the school had forgotten to get food for the children!
But we managed as we could, as Knot was giving presentations, I did my best to print extra certificates and find paper for the art competition (this had to be cut to a very specific size). After all the activities were over, the volunteers had a volley ball game with some of the older children and we returned to the bungalows and then went to KJV for a nice dinner and swim in their pool!
The beach clean-up was rather successful despite there being heavy rainfall which at the very beginning and for about half an hour. We collected about 1,200kg of debris and all thought that the beach at Koh Jum was one of the most dirty that we had ever seen. Most items seemed to have been there for many years highlighting the fact that no one really looks after this beach. The location is also very exposed to wind which is the reason why a lot of debris gets washed onto it and most of it is not produced on the island.
After another challenging trip back to the house we were welcomed by a cake for Knot's birthday and every one was happy to get back to the comfort of Suwat and Sao's house.
This month, with higher volunteer numbers we were able to go diving on a freshly painted Navada, back from the shipyard were she went for her annual check-up.
In terms of surveys, we did 3 ReefWatch surveys in July and the unusual sightings list included:
- Black-tip reef sharks
- Bamboo sharks
- Scribbled file fish
- Sebae anemonefish
- Short-tail pipefish
- Chanor pipefish
- Great barracudas
- Potato grouper
- Khul's stingrays
- Hawksbill turtle
We collected 31kg of litter on the reefs mainly fishing net (fine mesh hence low weight) from MuSangNua which we had spotted in June. We were able to go back twice to the site despite of the weather which brought us a lot of wind and also went to Koh Ha, Koh Si, Koh Dor and Koh Talu for salvage this month.
Viking Cave coral nursery
Another site which we had not been able to visit since April was Viking Cave where the Phuket Marine Biological Centre has a coral nursery which we help maintain and monitor. The nursery consists of PVC pipe and chicken wire trays which are anchored to the bottom in such a way that they stay at a depth of about 6-8 meters. Fragments of corals have been attached to the trays and are kept at the nursery for about a year before being transplanted to artificial or unhealthy reef for propagation.
We go there regularly to remove fouling organisms such as barnacles and algae from the trays and anchoring ropes. This is done to prevent the trays from becoming to heavy and sink as well as to stop other organisms to overgrow the corals, smothering or shading them and hence slowing their growth and reducing survival rates.
Since we only had three divers, we did not manage to get the trays spotless but we got the main job done and will go back ASAP to finish cleaning and also measure some fragments to monitor their growth rate.
We went twice to our mangroves nursery at Thung Prasan and most of the job consisted of maintaining the area around the seedlings as there has been a lot of invasive growth due to high rainfall in the last couple of months. We also cleared more land around the nursery where we transplanted 40 saplings and will continue when we go back.
In addition to Koh Jum beach, we cleaned three local beaches: AoNamMao, Andaman and Ao Tung. We collected a total of 888kg from those sites, a very lucky number these days, and so we beat the record for this year this month with more than 2000kg!!! Amongst the weirdest things that we found were a very stylish polystyrene 'statue' and a large piece of fibreglass which looked like a bit of a wreck.
When we went to AoNamMao, there were 26 of us as the '2-week special' volunteers joined the rest of the group and we collected 630kg from that beach only!
KRABI FISHERIES DEPARTMENT
Both the 'regular' and '2-week special' volunteers went for a trip to the Krabi Fisheries Department in Laem Poh. They were given presentations about the reef animals breeding program and given a tour of the facility and then helped cleaning tanks and removing seaweeds from the ponds.
The last 2 weeks of July, 15 volunteers joined us for a special, condensed program which included a tour of AoNang and Krabi as well as a visit to the Krabi mangroves walkway. As well as getting an Open Water or Advanced Open Water course the 2-weekers were introduced to the biodiversity of coral reefs and their ecology and environmental status.
Domenic from Wetlands International (WI) organised a bio-workshop about mangroves rehabilitation which consisted of a slideshow and a visit to a WI site under rehabilitation at Klong Nok.
The volunteers also had extra cultural activities such as elephant trekking, Thai massage, initiation to Thai boxing and 2 nights out for dinner in Krabi town.
INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN
Krabi has one of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in Thailand, hosting a rich biodiversity and those attract many tourists every year from all around the world. This environment, however, faces many threats and in particular coastal development and marine debris which destroys reefs, kills many marine organisms, is a health threats, directly to sea goers (water pollution and dangerous items such as broken glass and syringes) and through seafood.
Many people and organisations have been helping or wanting to preserve the natural state of Krabi but it has always been hard to organise to all work together with the same aims.
This year, we managed, with the help of various groups (in particular Greenfins, Kon Tiki and the National Park Authorities) to get many people to sit together and plan together an AoNang - Krabi campaign for the International Coastal Clean-Up Day.
In addition to government bodies (police, National Parks, public schools.) and NGOs, several dive centres and resorts decided to contribute to the campaign and we are discussing the possibility of forming an 'eco-group' to make AoNang a more environment friendly place. Projects include having bins located at strategic locations and also adding more mooring buoys to popular dive and snorkelling sites to prevent anchor damage to the reefs.
Chane and I have been participating at three meetings already and we will keep you updated as to how this project goes.
Click here and see our graphs of the amount of rubbish the volunteers have collected from the reefs and beaches here in Ao Nang in July 2008 - impressive work.
Click here and see our graphs of the amount of rubbish the volunteers have collected from the reefs and beaches here in Ao Nang over 2008 - impressive work.
Director for Thailand Conservation