Andaman Sea of Thailand: The Fragile Future

 

Under the morning light, fishermen on a Thai commercial purse seiner haul in nets full of marine life to the surface from the Andaman Sea, Krabi province, Thailand. The biological richness of the Andaman Sea nourish the lucrative fishing and related seafood processing industries of Thailand, but over five decades of overexploitation has led to the massive declines of fish stocks of over 90%.

White wave crashes over the volcanic rock formation at Koh Bon Island, Mu Koh Similan National Park, Phang-Nga province, Thailand.

A Giant manta ray (Mobula birostris) approaches the camera among exhausted bubbles from SCUBA divers at Koh Bon, Mu Koh Similan National Park, Phang-Nga province, Thailand. These charismatic megafauna often make appearances at offshore dive sites in the Andaman Sea during winter months, being one of the main attractions that bring divers to visit the western coast of Thailand.

A tourist dive into the crashing wave on a beach with a large cruise ship seen mooring up behind offshore, Phuket province, Thailand. Tourism industry is a large contributor to the Thai GDP at ~10%, where the maritime tourism along the Andaman coast of Thailand generates over hundred millions baht per year to the economy of this Kingdom.

A worker inspects the pearl oysters raised in the hatchery at a pearl farm in the estuary of Phuket province. The high-quality pearls from the farms along the Andaman coast of Thailand is largely attributed to the warm tropical climate and clean rich water.

SCUBA diver enjoys the beauty of vibrantly coloured reefs, which is covered with red soft corals at Hin Daeng pinnacle, Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Krabi province, Thailand.

Piles of various marine life are arranged for auction at a fish landing site in Ranong province, Thailand. The Andaman Sea is one of the major fishing grounds of Thailand, one of the top exporters of seafood in the world, However, over 40% of the catches were caught outside of Thai waters, since the surrounding seas are being depleted from destructive and overfishing.

A marine biologist freedives to collect data along a transect line during training at Sirinat National Park, Phuket province, Thailand. This technique is regularly used to assess the condition of shallow reefs due to the much greater agility in comparison to SCUBA diving.

A school of rasboras prowl among tree roots and underwater vegetation in a stream within Khlong Song Nam peat swamp forest, Krabi province, Thailand. With rotation between freshwater from underground springs, and saltwater from the Andaman Sea, the peat swamp forest provides a unique habitat for diverse aquatic organisms to thrive on.

A pair of Broadclub cuttlefishes (Sepia latimanus) mates while snorkelers observe their behaviour from a far in the degraded shallow reef of Sirinat National Park, Phuket province, Thailand.

A bloodied head of a juvenile dugong (Dugong dugon) and a butcher knife on a vinyl sheet after necropsy at Phuket Marine BIological Centre to determine the cause of death, which was drowning from entanglement in illegal fishing gear, Phuket province, Thailand. Despite its status as a protected species, these vulnerable sirenians are still regularly incidentally killed as bycatch by artisanal fishing gears in their critical habitat, the seagrass ecosystems.

In the morning light, villagers in a Moken village in the southern Mergui archipelago cook giant clams caught from the nearby reefs, prior selling them to traders from the mainland, Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Despite being in different countries and separately managed, there is a strong connectivity between the archipelagos in the Andaman Sea of Thailand and Myanmar, which may requires transboundary joint management to effectively preserve the biological richness of this threatened water.

Nourished by two major currents of the Indian Ocean, the Andaman Sea of Thailand boast an impressive biological abundance and diversity of natural resources. But these soon may change with the current rate exploitation, as the fish stocks decline, while the coastal ecosystems degrade, the fate of this water is hanging on a thin thread.
© 2019 Sirachai (Shin) Arunrugstichai
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