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Marine Conservation

Diving and Marine Conservation in Ao Nang, Thailand

Motivation

{to protect and rehabilitate Thailand’s coral reefs, marine eco-systems, and tropical forests, while helping keep the indigenous fish, animals, and birds that live there from becoming endangered}

Story

In 2007, I traveled to Ao Nang, Thailand with Projects Abroad to embark on a 2 week diving and marine conservation camp. The intent of the project was to raise awareness about environmental issues in the area, participate in beach cleanups, mangrove reforestation, and data gathering on the biodiversity of the waters. As part of the camp, I was trained and certified as a PADI open water scuba diver in order to participate in research dives with the team. We stayed with a local family, ate local food (delicious!) and spent most of our days either scuba diving or collecting debris in the mangroves and beaches. I learned about the impact of mangroves on coastal erosion and carbon sequestration, as well as the diversity of marine ecosystems.

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Local Impact

I am lucky to have had the opportunity to receive a scuba diver certification not only at the age of 15, but also in one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world – the PhiPhi islands! More than just the environmental impact that this project had, I enjoyed immersing myself in the Thai culture. Seeing the way that people and nature are so intertwined and dependent on each other was truly awe-inspiring – so much so, that I came back 10 years later to Ao Nang.

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Global impact

A recent boom in tourism in this area has caused great damage to the local reefs, marine ecosystem, mangroves and beaches. This project aims to gather data to highlight the anthropic impact on these environments in order to improve enforcement of environmentally friendly laws and regulations. Though I was only able to spend two weeks in Ao Nang, the project team continues to engage with the local community to educate them on the impact of trash and pollution on the environment. Ultimately, the idea is to prove to the local businesses and communities that a healthier reef can increase fish population and thus boost the fishing and tourism industries.

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What this project means to me

Given the number of countries I had visited in Southeast Asia, it was eye-opening to see the detrimental impact that tourism has on the local environment and ecosystems. Though I was not completely ignorant to it prior to my visit, there was something about being in the midst of a mangrove, mud boots sinking into the sludge, picking up garbage, that had a real, visceral impact on me. On future trips, I found myself doing extensive research on tourist activities to ensure I had chosen a company that was eco-friendly enough, or that I wasn’t inadvertently causing harm to the very thing I had come to visit.