THE DEPARTMENT of Marine and Coastal Resources is moving to declare a protected area and recruiting volunteers to help tackle the spread of yellow-band disease among corals spread across a thousand rai, or around 20 kilometres, off five upper and central Gulf of Thailand provinces, Matichon newspaper said.
Mr. Atthaphon Charoenchansa, the department’s head, speaking after diving to monitor this outbreak at Koh Kham island, off Sattahip district, Chonburi province, together with divers from AGC Vinythai, Burapha University and Samae San Volunteer Divers Club, revealed that the yellow-band disease had infected corals in Chonburi for the first time.
He estimated that infection rate of two types of corals, staghorn and scleractinia, also called stony corals or hard corals, was 1 to 10%.
The disease has also spread to other types of corals such as anemone, ringed favid and pocillopora meandrina, commonly known as cauliflower coral.
While this is a serious matter and action was needed to resolve it, Atthaphon said he did not want to call it an epidemic because experts pointed out that each type of coral has been infected with different types of bacteria from the Vibrio group.
“What is worrisome is that the rate of the outbreak occurring in Thailand is more severe than elsewhere, for example academics in Florida said in other countries it was not more than 3 centimetres per month, but in Thailand it was found to be spreading rapidly at 3-10 centimetres a month, which if allowed to spread without stopping will eventually cause the corals to die, ” Atthaphon said.
The department will now be holding talks with all sectors to study and prepare for future situations with all agencies, including entrepreneurs and the private sector, working together to jointly conserve and restore marine and coastal resources, particularly monitoring and preventing severe impact on coral resources.
The department is preparing to declare a protected area and will hold talks with marine volunteers on finding a solution to the coral infection with a strategy to be worked out on removing those infected from this area.
Corals infected with yellow-band disease and the team of experts who inspected the undersea area at Koh Kham island. Photos: Matichon