PHUKET: Qualifiers keep dropping with Go-Eco Phuket as the environmental group prepares for its official launch on September 30 with the biggest reef cleanup of any kind in the world.

“On September 30, the eyes of the world will be attracted to Phuket,” Tony Andrews, Thailand’s West coast PADI Regional Manager and Project AWARE Ambassador, said at a press conference with Phuket government officials at Kata Beach Resort today.

The Go-Eco Phuket, PADI and Project AWARE-sponsored “Dive Against Debris” event has 14 PADI dive boats and more than 450 participants signed up to sweep the reefs off Koh Racha Noi, Koh Racha Yai, Phi Phi Island, Koh Khao Nok and Koh Hei (“Coral Island”) clean of marine debris.

Of those participants, more than 280 are divers prepared to tackle the underwater debris, while the rest have volunteered to either help as snorkelers or with beach cleanups on Koh Racha Noi.

“The government officials were interested as soon as we met them. They thought it was a great idea and were proud of the dive companies and community,” Narong Chaimo, who acted as liaison between Thai officials and the Go-Eco Phuket group, told the Phuket Gazette today

More than 12 government offices and departments have pledged support for the project, from Chalong Municipality providing waste management for all the debris from the pier to the Royal Thai Navy sending three warships to maintain a perimeter to protect divers from speedboats that frequent the islands.

“We are pleased to help by disposing of the rubbish from the pier,” Chalong Mayor Samran Jindaphol said.

Once the rubbish is brought up from the reef it will be sorted into categories, such as fishing nets, plastics and so on, so it can be accurately documented, explained Mr Andrews.

“Go-Eco Phuket’s goal is to safely remove the debris from the reefs and beaches of Phuket and other surrounding islands,” Mr Andrews said. 

The long-term goal of the event is to mobilize divers from around to the world to the return the surrounding reefs to a clean, healthy state.

“We had a strong dream of making the reefs of Phuket and the surrounding islands clean, pristine and sustainable, and making sure they belong in the top diving destinations in Thailand and the world,” Mr Andrews said.

Vice Admiral Taratorn Kajitsuwan, Commander of the Navy Third Area Command at their base at Cape Panwa, pointed out that when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra previously visited the island, she had made it clear that eco-tourism was a must for Phuket.

“One of my priorities is to help [support eco-tourism efforts], and this project goes hand in hand with PM Yingluck’s vision of improving tourism and our country,” he said.

“Everyone is glad that Thais and foreigners have so much interest in the local environment,” he added.

During the meeting, a spokesperson for the Phuket Marine Biological Center highlighted to government officials the problem of “ghost fishing”.

Ghost fishing happens when nets become snagged on corals and are left behind by fishermen, but continue to catch and kill marine animals, he explained.

“These nets effect the entire development of reef system,” he said.

Noting that the issue of marine debris was a global concern, he said, “We hope we can show the world that Phuket can do it [cleanup the coral reefs], so it can be done everywhere else, too.”

The meeting also provided a forum for officials concerned about the current conditions of the marine ecosystem around Phuket.

“We will try to instigate a system to regulate and prevent boats from dumping rubbish,” a spokesperson for the Marine Department office in Phuket offered.

Pamuke Achariyachai, of event sponsor Kata Beach Group, invited the public to put forward more ideas to promote eco-tourism on the island.

“We will always support local events like this… should there be any other ideas for eco-tourism, the Kata Group would be interested in helping,” he said.

“We can show the world that Phuket is on the map for diving,” Mr Andrews said.

“But it’s really about what happens after September 30,” Mr Andrews added.

On September 30, registration for the event will start at 7:30am at the new marina building on Chalong Pier

At 8am, Governor Tri Augkaradacha, in his last day in office as Phuket Governor, along with other high-ranking officials will formally launch Go-Eco Phuket’s inaugural event.

An after party for participants will be held at Kan-Eang 2 at 6pm. A Thai-style buffet will start at 6:30pm and the raffle for a variety of dive goods and other contributions will start at 7pm. 

RNR Eco Adventures and Dive Resort is sponsoring the night’s entertainment by bringing together Legend Recording Studio’s Dark Fiber and Legends of Siam, as well as the Rocking Angels band and DJ Tank, with a special performance by Ricky Zen.

Drinks will be provided by Molly Malones, Phuket Beer and Chang Beer.

The event will run to 11pm.

The cleanup is sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and will be covered on national television (UBC/True Visions, channel 99) by the Gazette’s new show “Phuket Today”. The show airs six times per week. For the schedule, see October’s True Visions programming guide.

Despite the record-breaking attempt and focus on improving the tourism industry in Phuket, only eight of the 14 boats involved in the event have corporate sponsors for fuel costs.

Businesses interested in joining the Gazette as a sponsor of “Dive Against Debris” are invited to contact any local PADI dive center, or Tony Andrews, Regional Manager of PADI, by email at tony.andrews@padi.com.au 

Rubbish. It is ugly; it costs local communities and economies; and it destroys wildlife. Every year tens of thousands of marine creatures, mammals and birds die because of the litter we drop or the fishing nets we abandon and lose at sea. If you are fed up with seeing your local dive site trashed, or rubbish left on Phuket beaches, then join us on September 30 for Phuket’s largest Dive Against Debris effort ever.

This month sees divers all around the world rallying against the growing tide of rubbish, and here in Phuket it is no different. The dive community is pulling together to create the biggest underwater action of its kind in the whole of Thailand.

These PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) dive centers are veteran supporters of the Project AWARE Foundation – a non-profit environmental organization mobilizing hundreds of thousands of divers across the planet to protect our oceans. And this year they have joined together under the umbrella of Go Eco Phuket to maximize their ocean protection efforts and kick off a new wave of Dive Against Debris action right here on our shores.

As Earth’s growing population consumes more disposable goods, the items we discard, even thousands of miles inland, are choking our oceans. But our local actions can contribute to a clean, healthy, future for the ocean. Divers involved on September 30 will remove dangerous marine debris and document all rubbish found as part of the Dive Against Debris survey. Not only will this be made available to local organizations and groups, it will work with similar surveys conducted all across the world to help paint a truer picture of the issues facing our ocean world.

The Phuket dive community has a proud history of removing rubbish from the ocean but despite our best efforts the junk keeps piling up. Be part of the solution not the problem. Join forces with us for Phuket’s largest ocean action: let’s Dive Against Debris.

It is estimated that over 300 divers will take part in this event with ten PADI Dive Centers providing boats to take divers to hotspot locations. Corporate sponsors like PADI, Phuket Gazette, Phuket FM and Phuket Art Advertising are already on board along with dive manufacturers donating marine debris removal gear.

Go Eco Phuket and the Project AWARE Foundation are now looking specifically for ten corporate partners to come on board and each sponsor a Dive Against Debris boat. Your logo will be included on a Dive Against Debris banner displayed on the vessel and you’ll be part of a wider community effort to tackle the growing onslaught of rubbish entering our ocean and destroying our wildlife. Sponsorship of a boat is just 15,000 baht.

Parties and concerts are also planned before and after the event – dates and acts will be confirmed soon.

If you are interested in joining our efforts and being part of the solution, then please contact PADI Regional Manager and Project AWARE Ambassador Tony Andrews on tony.andrews@padi.com.au or contact the Phuket Gazette directly. Or visit facebook.com/goecophuket.

The problem with marine debris

Every year, tens of thousands of marine animals and seabirds die from eating or getting tangled up in marine debris. Here’s the ugly and frightening truth surrounding our mass throwaway culture:
  • Almost 90 per cent of floating marine debris is plastic.
  • Over 6 million tonnes of marine litter could be entering our ocean every year.
  • Research of northern fulmar seabirds found dead on beaches showed 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs. Each bird had swallowed an average of 35 plastic pieces.
  • 35 per cent of plankton-eating fish found during a study in the North Pacific Central Gyre had ingested plastic.
  • Annual plastic production and use of plastics has risen from 1.5 million tonnes in 1950 to 230 million tonnes in 2009.
  • Marine debris has affected more than 260 different marine species, including 86 per cent of sea turtles, 28 per cent marine mammals and 36 per cent of seabirds.
  • The majority of marine wildlife deaths are due to eating marine debris.
  • Animals that eat marine debris can choke if it catches in their throat. Once swallowed, plastic cannot be digested and makes the animal feel like it is full, so it stops eating and can starve to death.