Staff from 11 marine national parks and 3 associated research centers learned how to use long-term marine and coastal resources monitoring as a basis for improving park management at a workshop in Sirinard National Park, Phuket, on 8-10 May 2012.
The workshop demonstrated a training curriculum for marine and coastal resources monitoring, developed in several pilot Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the management of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). The goal of DNP, ultimately, is to integrate long-term monitoring into its management structure and capacity-building systems.
MPAs can be an effective tool for conserving marine and coastal resources. Monitoring plays a critical role in their management because it provides the essential information required to make informed decisions and determine if those decisions are the correct ones. It becomes even more important in rapidly changing environments subject to human pressures and the uncertainty of global climate change. A timely, comprehensive and site-based monitoring plan is vital to the successful management of any MPA.
The workshop began with training in identifying corals led by Mr Niphon Pongsuwan, a coral expert from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. It continued with instruction in photo belt transect monitoring techniques for long-term monitoring of the status of coral reefs, marine invertebrates and coral fish from two key marine biologists, Mr Phongtera Buapetch of Prince of Songkla University and Mr Sarawut Siriwong of Burapha University.
Workshop participants learnt and practiced in the sea off Nai Yang beach, Phuket, using diving gear, special monitoring equipment, and waterproof recording sheets. They also learned how to analyse coral reef photos using the CPCe (Coral Point Count with Excel extension) software package.
The last session of the workshop was on water quality. Dr Pasinee Worachananant of the Environmental Science faculty of Kasetsart University led participants through selected quality parameters and the details of collection procedures. Associate Professor Dr Wipusit Mantajit of Burapha University ended the workshop with a presentation on designing site-specific research and monitoring plans.
The event formed part of demonstration project led by Dr Suchai Worachananant, a marine expert from Kasetsart University, with support from the “Evaluating and Improving the Effectiveness of Thailand’s MCPAs” (MEE) and “Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network”(SAMPAN) projects. Participants come from the Mu Koh Surin, Mu Koh Similan, Mu Koh Lanta, Had Nopparattara-Mu Koh Phi Phi, Tarutao, Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet, Tarnsadet ,Mu Koh Chumporn, Laemson, Sirinard and Mu Koh Ang Thong National Parks, and regional National Park Research Centers in the upper Andaman Sea (Phuket), Lower Andaman Sea (Trang), and Gulf of Thailand (Chumporn).
At the end of the workshop, participants discussed how to promote further adoption of practical marine and coastal resources monitoring under DNP’s drive to improve management effectiveness. Crucial barriers to improving Thailand’s MPA monitoring system include a lack of relevant marine monitoring equipment, the unclear role and responsibilities of MPA staff, and the discontinuity of current monitoring efforts.
“Senior policy makers in DNP should concern themselves seriously with the status of marine resources in our national parks, and create a ‘marine scientist’ position in park management teams to carry out monitoring and provide appropriate information for decision making” reflected Ms Suppaporn Prempree, head of the Lower Andaman (Trang) National Park Research Center.
Participants also recommended that collaboration among key government agencies (such as DNP and DMCR, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources) should be strengthened to improve coordination. A more holistic strategy and action plan for marine conservation is also needed to enhance collaboration and minimize the problems of overlapping jurisdictions.
In the future, IUCN and DNP, who together are helping to implement the MEE and SAMPAN projects, will look to carry forward these recommendations into concrete practices throughout Thailand’s protected area network.