Phuket cleans up its ocean floor

Phuket’s recent International Coastal Cleanup Day 2008 was a big success, drawing boatloads of experienced divers to visit coral reefs near the island and remove trash and fishing debris. The annual cleanup is organised by Green Fins Thailand, a conservation group connected to the United Nations.

Among the litter removed from the bottom of the sea, bottles, sandals and fishing gear are the most prevalent items. Koh Maiton was one site focused on by the Sea Bees Diving company. The company’s public relations officer told the Phuket Gazette that the annual event is equally aimed at raising public awareness about the damage caused by throwing trash into the sea.

Koh Khai Nok, one of the Phang Nga Bay’s most popular snorkeling sites, was also targeted by the cleanup operation. Here, some 30 divers managed to painstakingly remove nearly 200kg of fishing nets tangled in the reefs. It takes an hour to remove just one square metre of net without damaging the reef.

Diving operations at Koh Racha Yai removed some 600kg of trash from the reef, stating that 85 per cent of the debris was fishing gear such as nets and rope. The results from this year’s cleanup strongly suggest that local Thai fishermen are mainly to blame for the trash that is choking off Phuket’s priceless coral reefs.

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