17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Conservation        +66 (0) 077 456 179

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In 1998, oceanic temperatures reached the highest they have been for 650,000 years. 2002 was the second hottest, and 2010 could be hotter. Climate change is causing oceanic temperatures to rise, threatening the destruction of coral reefs world wide, making them now the world's oldest but most threatened ecosystem. In 1998, 60% of the worlds corals bleached resulting in many reefs seeing mass coral death.
Save Koh Tao, Marine Conservation Koh Tao and Big Blue Conservation have observed 95% bleaching in many areas around Koh Tao in 2010, and the same is being reported throughout the Gulf and Andaman Coastlines.

                         

So what is coral bleaching and why is it happening now?
Corals are animals in the same family as jellyfish, they are very primitive and have a clear, jellylike anatomy called a polyp. When we look at a healthy coral, the colours we see are actually from millions of little algae cells that live inside the coral's tissue called zooxanthellae. Using the sunlight for photosynthesis, they provide 85% of the coral polyps nutrients which is used for skeleton growth, reproduction and to produce its protective coating. In return, the algae are given a stable place to live and steady supply of nutrients.
When the water temperature rises above 30C, the chemistry and resulting living environment within the coral polyp changes attacking the algae. In response, the algae produces chemicals to defend themselves which attacks the coral and the coral is forced to expel the algae. This results is the coral skeleton being visible through the coral polyp giving a bleached appearanced. The coral polyps are severely stressed, although not dead, as they are only able to obtain 15% of the nutrients without the algae. Should the conditions improve within 28 days, and the algae return, the corals are likely to survive the bleaching event. However, whilst bleached they are much more susceptible to disease, damage and pollutants, and many bleached corals will not survive bleaching.
Certain ivertebrate and fish species will have an impact on the health of the reefs as well as indicating water quality, as the presence and absense of many essential algal grazers, predators and pests will influence reef health and shape the ecosystem. It is therefore also essential that we monitor the abundance of indicator species around Koh Tao.
As such, it is vital that we monitor the life and coral health around the island, and this is what Big Blue Conservation strives to do. Through training, education and raising general awareness, we hope that the beautiful diverse corals around Koh Tao will remain so for years to come.

In 1998, sea surface temperatures reached the highest in 850,000 years. Currently, 2010 is set to be hotter. This has caused worldwide bleaching of corals.
The bleaching began to occur on Koh Tao mid April, and we are just starting to see their recovery now. Mushroom corals, have begun to regain their zooxanthellae. This is great news for the reefs of Koh Tao, hopefully most of the snowy white corals will recover, giving us back our colourful reefs we love to dive every day.
Corals have a single cell symbiotic algae that lives inside their tissue called zooxanthellae, which provide 85% of the coral nutrients through photosynthesis. However, in increased temperatures, the zooxanthellae produce more energy than the coral needs, and that energy is transferred to oxygen to make oxygen free radicals, which harm the coral tissue. In response, the coral animal expels the algae so that the white calcium carbonate skeleton can be seen through the colourless tissue, giving a bleached appearance. The corals are not dead at this point, however, there are severely stressed, having only 15% of their usual nutrient intake, and therefore much more susceptible to disease and damage.
In 1998, only 5-10% of bleached corals perished, and through constant underwater monitoring, Big Blue Conservation and other dive shops around the island have been keeping a close eye on this years bleaching, like Big Blue Conservation did yesterday off Sairee beach.
So is this the start of the recovery? Watch this space!

             

Duncan has gotten so caught up in all the eco stuff going on at Big Blue at the moment, that even he spent a dive removing a 20m plus long fish net from Southwest Pinnacle yesterday. And no, they weren't girls fish net stockings - but a genuine discarded fishing net! Thanks Duncan, the fish and coral will forever be your friend! Tomorrow I'll put the photos of Canada helping to plant trees in the Poonama Canal...

              

Look how much it has grown! In only 3 months of being in place, some coral fragments on our coral nursery have started to really take hold! This is fantastic news, especially after the severe bleaching events around the world this year, it's great to see some corals continuing to do well.

Coral nurseries are of increasing importance because Reefs around the globe are threatened by human activities. Like many parts of the world, the economy on Koh Tao is reliant upon our natural reef areas and the visitors they bring.

Koh Tao currently has a number of coral nurseries using different techniques for research and restoration purposes. It is hoped that coral colonies from these nurseries can help add to the reefs around Koh Tao and provide a means of restoring damaged areas faster than would naturally occur,as well as providing additional dive sites. A number of organisations including Save Koh Tao and dive operators on Koh Tao have begun constructing small coral nurseries to test the feasibility and success of different methods. So far 3 different types of structures have been test-built 3 and all three have been successful.
Big Blue conservation aims to contribute to this research, so that after a few months trial period the relative price and performance of each method can be optimised before making coral nurseries more widespread around the island. In the future, we would like to see a coral nursery near each dive site, and a few in places that currently are not being dived to provide alternative dive sites.
With nurseries in place in close proximity to dive sites, should a boat anchor or SCUBA divers break the corals, those fragments can be quickly brought to a secure growing area until they become large enough to transplant back onto the dive site. The nurseries themselves also serve as habitats for fish and a variety of other marine organisms, helping to maintain the reef abundance and biodiversity around Koh Tao.

             

Big Blue Conservation is now and official member of the Shark Alliance! As a result of the fantastic work Koh Tao did to raise money and awareness throough the Swim for Sharks 2010 event, the Shark Alliance has awarded us with member status. The Shark Alliance is a global, not-for-profit coalition of non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies. We, as members, are now part of a high caliber group of NGOs, professionals and volunteers who are working together to achieve a common objective. We have access to specialists of a number of functions (science, policy, communications, public relations, campaign strategy and coordination) dedicated to shark conservation and management, and access to additional capacity to strengthen our own organisation’s profile and influence. Go team Eco!!!

You can find out more about the Shark Alliance by following the website link on the left hand side of this page.