Marine Conservation in Koh Tao

Koh Tao's Marine Conservation on the international stage

From Sea To Symposium – Part II

Crystal Dive takes Conservation to the Global Stage

Discovery underpins the world of science. Being curious, asking questions, searching for answers are some of the reasons science exists. Living on the small island of Koh Tao for the best part of the last 14 years I have asked many questions.

Similarly, divers, businesses, local communities and all of those people that rely on the marine resources to support their livelihoods have been asking a lot of questions about how we look after our resources and how we might preserve, protect and restore degraded areas in the years to come.

Rewind > > From Sea To Symposium – Part I

International Coral Reef Symposium 2016 four years the world of science comes together, usually in a tropical location, to discuss, share, learn and collaborate for the betterment of that 2% of the earth’s surface that is home to coral reefs.

The rest of the globe is dependent on these critical habitats for the health of the ocean.

The Hawaii Convention Center hosted this year’s instalment of the International Coral Reef Symposium, a global forum sharing ideas and working toward a sustainable future for coral reefs.

The conference was attended by around 2,500 delegates giving over 1,500 oral presentations and 700 poster presentation elaborating on years of experimenting and working for a bright future that is fast being challenged by the challenges being faced by the natural world.

Representing Crystal Dive and Eco Koh Tao where I joined my son Kailash sharing their knowledge from lessons learned through years of marine conservation work in the island they called home for many years.

If You Build It, Will They Come? 

Kailash put together a poster presentation titled “If you build it, will they come? Assessing the biodiversity of fish and invertebrates on artificial reefs as compared with Natural reefs”.

On the Wednesday evening, accompanied by a few casual beverages, Kailash was allotted time, along with a number of other presenters, to accompany his poster and provide feedback and answer questions to interested visitors.

He had a lot of visitors and answered the questions excellently. Guests were impressed with Kailash’s professionalism and knowledge on the subject area and he enjoyed sharing his passion for his time on Koh Tao. 

Click here for a high definition version of Kailash’s poster.

Active Reef Restoration: Improving the outcome for degraded reefs in Thailand presentation was titled “Active reef restoration: Improving the outcome for degraded reefs in Thailand”. I looked at the history of the conservation projects on Koh Tao of the many years he lived here.

From the development of the Save Koh Tao community group to the work done by a variety of organisations and individuals across Koh Tao, this evolution was crucial to the conservation movement and is responsible for a lot of the great marine conservation work that continues today.

I shared the room with many marine scientists exploring the various active reef restoration techniques and ideas. My presentation was given to a big crowd and was well received. Lacking the scientific depth of many presentations my talk was a much lighter look at grass roots community conservation work in action. 

With so many brilliant minds and passionate people attending the conference it was difficult to choose where to spend time. Active restoration and resilience based management of coral reefs were popular topics for me.

Kailash however was taken by the genomic sequencing of Symbiodinium to determine potentially heat tolerant strains of Zooxanthallae.

If you are not sure what all that means, that’s OK because unless you are a gifted 13-year-old, it is pretty complicated!

Exploring Oahu, Hawaii

In between conferencing, dinners and scientific presentations we managed to get out and see a bit of Oahu despite the busy schedule. We spent a morning hiking to the lookout point of Diamond Head east of Waikiki, did some snorkelling and swimming and hired a convertible mustang to tour the famous north shore.

Oh, and we also got out and did some diving on the fringing reefs around the island..!!

The reefs were pretty denude of corals and well grazed with sea urchins dominant. Turtles were a common feature of the marine life both when diving and even snorkelling off the beach which was surprising given the density of human populations there. 

Back at school the following week Kailash gave a presentation at the school assembly for Byron Bay High School. They were very impressed and proud of his achievements as were family and friends. As for the research, well it continues and hopefully we’ll have a publication of the findings to brag about in the not too distant future.

And back to Koh Tao….

And the conservation work on Koh Tao, that continues too. My good friend and colleague Jenny Dowling has taken over the helm of Eco Koh Tao and together with Crystal Dive and many other dedicated eco warriors they are continually working on new and old projects to ensure the future of Koh Tao is a bright one.

From propagating coral nurseries and giant clam nurseries to developing custom designed dive locations to help reduce the pressure on some of our heavily dived reefs. It has been quite a journey.

Author: Nathan Cook (PADI Master Instructor / Reef Check Instructor Trainer)

Crystal Dive Koh Tao

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Tambon Ko Tao
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