Thailand's reefs are under siege

Updated January 13, 2011

Thailand’s coral reefs boast some of the most spectacular and diverse marine life in the world. Coral reefs benefit Thailand’s fisheries and tourism sectors, and also provide shoreline protection for coastal communities. But today in Southeast Asia, 80 percent of coral reefs are endangered.

Reefs located close to the Thai coast can be affected by effluent and runoff from coastal shrimp farms. When shrimp pond water — containing high levels of organic waste — leak out of farms and into the sea, the large increase of nutrients in the water provides ideal growing conditions for algae and sponges. These organisms can out-compete hard coral, by depriving the formations of necessary oxygen and light. This spells ruin for the reefs.

While laws have now been enacted in Thailand to limit shrimp-pond runoff, the residual effects of decades of shrimp farming have reduced some of the nation’s once-beautiful reefs to underwater wastelands.

This video has been corrected to clarify that a statement made by an interpreter is a translation of a comment by a shrimp farmer.