At the beginning of December Dive Tribe received a request from Go Eco Phuket, to come and help them with a problem we see all too often on the reefs of Thailand - ANCHOR DAMAGE.
Dive Tribes CEO Gwyn Mills and Dr Wayne Phillips from Mahidol University flew over to the beautiful island of Phuket to begin to asses the situation.
Dive Tribe needed to pack a number of tools with them incl. reef pins, 50 meter tape measure, rulers, EMP slates, Hammers, GPS locators, salinity and water density meters to begin the surveying. (Unfortunately the reef pins were not aloud on the plane so we had to improvise).
After meeting some of the team at Go Eco Phuket it was decided our first days diving would be in Marina bay, Camera bay and Bay 1 & 2, Joe Blazy an instructor for Sea Bees diving was our guide for that first day.
On descending to approx. 8-10 meters the damage was evident straight away, in-fact myself and Dr Wayne were both surprised at how much damage had been sustained directly to the reef and that many of the moorings currently in use were ropes simply attached around coral heads which can cause damage and even kill the coral they are trying to protect.
Anchors had not only hit the reef but had also been dragged through sites causing widespread damage, the reason is obvious, these dive sites are popular with not only dive operators but also Phuket’s large boating community, and because of lack of buoys and no public information on the care of the reef at many of the tourists sites “Chalong Pier etc, these reefs have suffered as a consequence.
Algae was also present across some of the reefs which suggest a higher nutrient content than is healthy in the bays, a way of helping this is to ask Dive Guides and Divemasters when they give there presentation to the public on the boat to ask them not to flush the toilets while over the reef/dive sites unless it is really necessary.
Gwyn Mills with the help of Joe went to do many site surveys to look for suitable positions for Dive Tribes “Helix Anchor mooring system”. The substrate tests yielded many possible sites for the anchor system at both Marina Bay and Bays 1 & 2. Camera Bay was more site specific , with more rock and hardcore but still possible to install buoys with care.
That same day as part of the installation survey, we took 50 meter transect lines across the reefs, this gives us a snapshot of what corals are growing (Massive, Submassive, Foliose, Corymbose) etc. From this data we can determine age , recently killed, anchor damage and if they are fast or slow growing and whether or not they will encroach on the newly laid anchors.
The data is collected on slates and then Dr Wayne and Gwyn with the help of GPS, tide tables and depth limits, determine where anchors should be placed in the bays with minimal environmental impact.
Over the 3 days of diving and collecting data Dive Tribe also visited Siam Bay and Bungalow Bay with Oui a local dive operator from Sharkey Scuba. Bungalow Bay was earmarked as of prime importance as the amount of boat traffic using the area had substantially damaged the reef and was evident that this was carrying on on a daily basis. The Bay itself also had an old mooring project using concrete block tied together which had failed and the blocks were now free to roll about the reefs and damage more corals.
With the help of divers from Go Eco Phuket our team would like to assist in the movement of these blocks and build and artificial reef in an area that would see healthy coral growth and no damage.
The artificial reefs that have been installed before have all suffered greatly from anchor damage, some have had direct strikes which have broken through the concrete and others have been turned over on their sides by anchors.
Three dives complete and it was time to present our findings and recommendations to all the participants and supporters of Go Eco Phuket. The presentation for the state of reefs health was given by Dr Wayne Phillips and it covered several aspects on how reefs function, and how we as a team can help it survive well into the future.
Phase 1 We have to remove stresses on the reefs and one of the largest and easily removable is anchor damage. Our suggestion for the Helix Anchor was explained to the team at Go Eco Phuket and questions were answered as to the strength of the anchors and pricing of the project.
Phase 2 We need to able to monitor the reefs and collect data to see how well the reef is functioning and to become proactive not reactive to its needs. This is where Dive Tribe would like to teach their Ecological Monitoring Program (EMP) to the dive schools in Phuket. With this program and subsequent data collection we can work as a team over time to ensure our reefs stay healthy. It will give us the background knowledge we require to the begin to make educated assessments as to what types of corals we can establish in our artificial reefs .
Phase 3 Artificial reef construction needs to be looked at, once the site is secure and anchor damage will not effect the area. Dr Wayne with the help of Dive Tribe and volunteers from Go Eco Phuket have a chance to work on some pioneering work to reconstruct the reefs. Wayne would, with the permission of the Department of Marine & Coastal Resources (DMCR) like to begin a coral spawning and recruitment drive to reintroduce corals to the dive sites. With Dive Tribe engineers we can help the teams at Go Eco Phuket design and construct the correct reefs and coral gardens that will be successful in their areas.
On Dive Tribes last day we also put together meetings with the DMCR-Phuket who were only to happy to help and will supply ropes, buoys and boats to help the project along.
They asked us many questions about the project in Pattaya and we believe that they were strongly behind this project, so much so they invited us to meet with the Governor of Phuket for afternoon tea. Sadly we had to fly back to Bangkok so no tea quaffing was done although we will look forward to meeting with them all again.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Go Eco Phuket are currently looking for sponsors for this project and would welcome the chance to give Dive Tribes “Reef Protection” presentation and proposal to interested companies, sponsors and supporters.
You can contact Joe Blazy at firstname.lastname@example.org
& Simone at email@example.com
The Reefs In Phuket Are Still Beautiful And Should Still be Considered As A Prime Dive Location For The Traveling Diver - They Just Need Our Help
Thank You from the team at Dive Tribe
YOUR SUPPORT IS TAKING A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION