“The Scuba Training for Conservation course is one of the activities under the Green Coast project that encourages the nearby communities, of Had Tai Muang’s newly discovered reef, to restore and conserve the environment, as well as support these communities to build capacities and increase alternatives for their livelihoods,” states Songpol Tippayawong, head of Marine and Coastal Resources Unit, WWF Thailand, as a diving instructor refreshes students on the sign language used when diving.
Songpol continues as he expresses his thoughts on this long-term collaboration,“we hope that, in this next year, those trained to be scuba divers can act as a network for WWF in managing the coral reef as well as aid in restoring the livelihoods of those living around Had Tai Muang National Park. There will be numerous activities such as coral surveys, site evaluations for zoning, or setting up buoys for scuba or snorkeling trails.
Scuba dive training is costly for both the course and equipment, thus, it was a great opportunity allowing fishermen and park officers to integrate technology with their local wisdom to better conserve the natural resources. Taweesin Lekwan, Had Tai Muang N.P. officer in his early twenties, states, “What I know is not enough. This training provided me with additional knowledge that added with what I already knew, I can do my job better, conserve better and know better the fundamentals of protecting corals as well as know the differences of corals and fish species.”
Uayporn Nuknaen, a fisherman in his early thirties, who show much interest in the pool and open water training adds that “the training exposed us to the use of tanks, gave us more experience with diving, which gave us a better sense of safety than previous methods.” They would usually free dive at a depth of about 20 meters at times, to sustain a living for their families.
“In the future, those capable should be trained for dive readers or dive masters. We may be able to find funding as it will lead us to a model tourism service where the locals are fully involved with the Had Tai Muang reef; an area that has yet to receive legal protection.” Songpol speaks of this unfinished project, despite the completion of diving certificates.
This activity is thus a small step to prepare for sustainable conservation and tourism in Had Tai Muang National Park…the last beach in Thailand that bears up to 4 species of sea turtles and is home to a rich coral reef that itself is 10 % of all reef in the Andaman sea.