Thailand Closes Koh Pling Island Due To Coral Bleaching

Just as peak tourist season gets underway, Koh Pling and parts of Sirinat National Park have been closed to visitors after mass coral die-off was detected
Koh Pling rests off the island of Phuket in Thailand
Koh Pling rests off the island of Phuket in ThailandCasper1774 Studio/

A tourist-friendly islet off Phuket has been closed after Thai authorities found signs of extensive coral bleaching in its reefs.

Koh Pling, known as Pling Island in English, is a picturesque tropical paradise with clear blue waters and lush greenery. Visitors often stroll along its sandy beaches or scuba dive and snorkel to take in its beautiful marine life. However, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) said Koh Pling and the coral reefs around Sirinat National Park would be temporarily closed due to mass coral bleaching. They are also monitoring other national parks for signs of coral deterioration.

Corals turn white during a bleaching event
Corals turn white during a bleaching eventRichard Whitcombe/

Bleaching occurs when stressed corals expel the algae living within them and is usually caused by higher-than-normal ocean temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation. Corals can recover from bleaching at a given time and when temperatures in the ocean return to normal. Healthy coral reefs provide food and shelter for countless fish species. They also act as natural breakwaters by protecting coastlines from erosion. The closure of the islet comes after a recent heatwave saw temperatures soar across Thailand and Asia.

The country’s authorities also took action to save coral reefs in 2018 when they closed the world-famous Maya Bay, made popular by the Hollywood film “The Beach,” for four years in order to allow the ecosystem to recover. Estimates at the time said that more than 80 per cent of the corals around Maya Bay had been destroyed.

A beach at Sirinat National Park in Phuket
A beach at Sirinat National Park in PhuketSukasem Siwaphorn/

By limiting human activity around the reefs, Thailand hopes that algae populations will make a return to Koh Pling and boost coral health. According to a 2023 United Nations climate report on Asia, the continent is heating up faster than the global average, with increased casualties and economic losses from floods, storms and more severe heatwaves occurring because of the ongoing climate crisis

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