Coral escaped largely unscathed by tsunami

Date: 1/2/2005

Four days after the tsunami struck, an unprecedented number of researchers from various government agencies and educational institutes joined up with volunteer divers in a massive cooperative effort to assess the impact of the tsunami on marine resources in southern Thailand. The assessments were made around Laem Son Marine National Park in Ranong; the Surin and Similan islands in Phangnga; Sirinart Marine National Park in Phuket; Krabi’s Nopparat Thara and Phi Phi, Tharn Boke Koranee and Lanta islands; Chao Mai in Trang; Phae Tra and Tarutao marine national parks in Satun, and the Talibong Wildlife Reserve Area in Trang. The researchers found that 69, or 40 percent, of the areas assessed were almost untouched by the tsunami, while 36, or 21 percent, were slightly damaged. Only 23, or 13 percent, of the sites sustained considerable damage. Damaged coral was turned over or broken by the gigantic waves, collapsed on sliding sand slopes or was smothered by sediment, debris and garbage. The worst affected areas were in Ranong province and in parts of the Surin, Similan and Phi Phi islands, while coral formations in Satun, Phuket, Krabi and Trang were almost untouched. “In most of the areas surveyed, there was dead coral but this was killed not by the tsunami but by human activities from pollution, garbage, land development along the coast, and the impact of tourism, direct and indirect,” said Niphon Phongsuwan, a researcher from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre who headed an initial survey two days after the tsunami struck.Two weeks later, coral which was overturned or had branches broken was beginning to recover on its own.