Koh Phangan Rig-To-Reef Project boosts marine wildlife
Artificial reefs installed in the Gulf of Thailand around Surat Thani’s Koh Pha-ngan island nine years ago have given a significant boost to marine wildlife in the area.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, however, said he had to cancel his plan to dive down and check the reefs for himself due to high waves and monsoon.
The artificial reefs are made with seven decommissioned petroleum wellhead platforms that were donated by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd.
“Though I have not seen it in person, the photos taken by divers show the artificial reefs have served as the foundation of an underwater ecosystem, which helped increase the number of marine life around the island significantly,” he said.
The reefs were installed in September 2013 as part of a rig-to-reef project conducted in partnership with eight petrol exploration companies. Since then, the ministry has installed more than 150,000 artificial reefs made from decommissioned petroleum rigs covering some 36,000 rai of Thailand’s waters.
“I have instructed the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to monitor the condition of these artificial reefs and record changes and impacts to marine resources periodically, so we can make further improvements when implementing the project elsewhere,” he said.
On March 8, 2019, the ministry announced the area around the Koh Pha-ngan artificial reefs as a protected site. Fishing and diving activities have been banned in a bid to accelerate the rate at which young coral will latch on to the artificial reefs.
“We have learned that limiting human activity is key to rebuilding new coral, which will serve as shelter to marine life. The ban will be in effect until March 8, 2023,” Varawut said.
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