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Synthetic reefs have been constructed around Pattaya’s Koh Larn and Koh Sak

Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Varawut Silpa-archa, outlined various risks to the country’s waters last week at a World Oceans Day ceremony in Phuket. Pollution, poor seawater quality, overfishing, and climate change were among them. Tourism sites like Koh Larn have experienced an increase in visitors after Thailand’s Covid-19 travel restrictions were loosened. Maya Bay, a wildlife hotspot that was closed for three years, saw the comeback of various plant and animal species that had vanished as a result of people overcrowding the beach and surrounding areas. Boats entering the bay and mooring damaged much of the natural coral before the closure. Old electric insulators were used to create the artificial reefs. Discarded fishing nets are another problem for Thailand’s marine biodiversity, killing and hurting species like dolphins and sea turtles. Surrounding Koh Larn, 200 reefs were built, and around Koh Sak, 100.

While Thai officials aim to expand tourism, there is a constant tension between wanting more wildlife tourists and minimizing the damage that tourists often bring. Thailand’s government is constructing new homes for Pattaya’s aquatic life in the hopes of boosting coastal tourism. Around Koh Larn and Koh Sak, two small islands off the coast of Pattaya, the government built 300 artificial reefs. Kiattisak Sriwongchai, Pattaya’s Deputy Permanent Secretary, said the island’s coral reefs had been particularly harmed by people walking across them. According to Kiattisak, a large group of decorative fish and young fish have gladly settled in to their new habitat. The reefs, he continued, were created through a partnership between the private and public sectors.

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