A committee yesterday called for the temporary closure of 32 diving spots in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea in a bid to protect coral against bleaching.
The move is part of a group of four proposals the committee made to relevant authorities.
The panel comprises representatives from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and the National Policy Committee for Tourism.
Of the diving spots suggested to be closed, 17 are Gulf of Thailand islands including Koh Kangkao, Koh Chang Noi and Koh Talu, and 15 are Andaman Sea islands including the Similans, Phai and Rawi.
Koh Yung, which is part of the Phi Phi Islands and one of the 32 dive spots, has been closed for weeks.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine science academic and a key member of the investigating panel, told The Nation yesterday that coral in some parts of the Gulf of Thailand was being bleached and it was anticipated that 80 per cent of the country's coral were prone to bleaching.
He said the Andaman Sea's temperature was reaching a critical point of 30.5-31 degrees Celsius as a result of climate change and that would lead to bleaching. The situation prompted the committee to call for action to be taken, he said. In a bid for the committee's proposal to be effective as soon as possible, Thon said he would utilise his closed ties with concerned authorities. He urged them to approve the proposal soon.
"We cannot let red tape delay things any longer. When the proposal is approved, it may be too late to preserve the coral," he said. Before the proposal was resolved, the committee studied such a move in light of the views of academics, the authorities and entrepreneurs, he said, adding that the proposal was likely to be approved.
The panel urged tourists including divers to be aware of coral sensitiveness and help protect the coral.