This proposal is to request funding to be allocated for the purchase and deployment of a large metal dive boat (the M.V. Trident) to serve as an artificial reef and diver training area in conjunction with the project being completed along with the DMCR in Ao Leuk in August of 2010. The purpose of this site will be to function as an alternative dive site to relieve sieving pressure and over crowding of natural reefs and to provide a coral and fish nursery to improve populations that have been affected by fishing and other activities. The funding for this project would be derived from the Save Koh Tao Group and other participating groups such as SSI,BSAC and the local dive schools/business.
This community based project will help to increase the amount of collective participation on marine conservation projects on Koh Tao amongst the dive shops and local businesses. Only by increasing the amount of environmental action and education on Koh Tao can the long-term sustainability of the local environment and economy be ensured. This will further propel Koh Tao as a sustainably minded community that can provide an example for other island states around the world. Specific goals of the project include:
On Koh Tao, reef health, abundance, biodiversity, and resilience are all being decreased at an alarming rate and unless action is taken these delicate ecosystems could be lost as well as the economies which rely upon them. Of the human impacts to coral reefs observed on Koh Tao, the ones directly addressed by this project are diving and over-fishing or extraction of reef organisms. Over-extractive coastal fishing activities can quickly decrease reef diversity, and the removal of algae-grazing fish allows macro-algae to dominate in coral reef areas. Fishing around Koh Tao is largely unregulated and techniques include spears, traps, and large nets; all of which are very effective, but unselective and extremely damaging. Long time island residents and divers agree that the abundance, size, and variety of fish and economically valuable reef organisms has decreased dramatically in recent years. This loss of certain species causes a disruption in the reef balance leading to lower diversity and resilience.
Tourism yields much higher GDP’s than fishing, and can benefit more individual business owners for a longer period of time. In 1992, the world tourism market traded $1.9 Trillion USD, while the fishing industry traded about only about $27 Billion USD (Birkeland 1997). This is more apparent on Koh Tao where the economy is mostly dependant on the over 300,000 visitors who come each year to dive and snorkel (estimated 60% tourists try diving, 90% snorkeling). But, over use of the reefs through extraction and recreation can lead to a decrease in reef health and a collapse of the local economy.
Wrecks, artificial reefs, coral nurseries, and fish nurseries have been used around the world to improve the abundance, biodiversity, value, and resilience of reef ecosystems disturbed by over fishing or extraction (Carr). Both planned and accidental ship wrecks can be found in many places around the world, and these sites generally show a much higher level of species diversity and abundance than the surrounding area that is lacking in solid substrate. Indeed, sinking boats, military equipment, train cars, cargo containers, etc. is widely accepted and being used around both Thailand and the rest of the world.
For this proposed project, the M.V. Trident Boat will be sunk in Ao Leuk, an area that already has favorable conditions and water quality for coral growth, but lacks substrate for coral recruitment. This project will coincide with the deployment of the artificial reef being completed by the DMCR and Save Koh Tao in August of 2010. As an artificial reef, the project will increase the reef area on Koh Tao by allowing for the natural recruitment of coral colonies. Any structure which provides topography or hiding space (rubbish, piers, oil platforms, etc.) will attract fish, and also provide safety from nets. As an MPA this site could serve as a ‘safe-zone’ for spawning and juvenile fish that would otherwise be extracted from the other areas around the island by fishing practices.
The vessel is 29 meters long, and 5.5 meters wide.
To ensure that this project does not negatively affect water quality or the health of marine organisms, all dangerous or hazardous materials inside the boat will be removed (i.e. engine, fuel tanks, batteries, plastic components, etc.) Holes can be cut into some areas of the floors or ceilings of the boat compartments to facilitate diver exploration of the wreck after deployment. The boat being 7 meters high, will be sunk in a location that is dominated by sand substrate and at depth greater than 30 meter depth to ensure it does not affect natural reefs or currents.
After the boat is prepared, it will need to be towed from Chumporn to Koh Tao and attached to a preconstructed mooring line in Ao Leuk Bay. Upon arrival, granite rocks will be placed into the lower compartments of the ship to provide ballast and weight the boat to the bottom. Several 200 liter plastic drums will be placed into the upper compartments of the boat to make sure the vessel does not land on its side. Next, water pumps will be used to flood the boat until it sinks to the bottom. After sinking, divers will work to anchor the wreck in place.
Previous experience with wrecks on Koh Tao shows that even heavy vessels must be anchored in place or they may drift in strong monsoon currents. For this project divers will install a series of sand screws around the boat, and then use chains to anchor the boat to the screws.
The location for this wreck will adhere to the DMCR/Save Koh Tao island zoning plan to dedicate reef areas around our island as “Restoration Zones.” The Restoration Zone addressed in 2010 by the DMCR in 2010 is Ao Leuk, with the sinking of an artificial reef/diver training site in August of 2010. This wreck will be placed near the Ao Leuk site, at a depth of at least 25 m, preferably in a sandy area at 30 m, sheltered from the strong currents prevalent between Ao Leuk and Shark Island.
A position of the funding for this project would come from the island’s dive schools, who are all very interested to help out due to the long history of the MV trident Boat on Koh Tao and throughout SE Asia.