From Dr Robert Mather, Asian head of IUCN

Andaman region Overview: Dr Robert Mather, IUCN

Thailand has a coastline of almost 3,000 km (one third along the Andaman Sea Coast and two-thirds along the Gulf of Thailand Coast) and an EEZ of around 360,000 km2.  Throughout the entire coastline, in-shore shallow water fisheries provide important food security and income for local small-scale fishers. Marine capture fisheries within the EEZ and coastal aquac ulture together generate around $3 billion income/year.

Mangrove cover declined from 2 million rai in the mid-70s to 1 million rai in the mid- 90s, but has since recovered to 1.5 million rai.  Phang-nga, Krabi, trang and Satun account for almost two-thirds of remaining mangroves, while Chantaburi and Trat have the most remaining mangroves on the Gulf side. Coral reefs and sea grass beds on the Andaman coast are generally more abundant and in better condition than on the Gulf coast. There are a total of 23 coastal/marine protected areas in Thailand, but together they represent only a very small proportion of Thailand’s seas and coasts, while mangrove forests and inter-tidal mud-flats are vastly underrepresented in Thailand’s protected areas system.  Large parts of the coast are de-facto managed by local communities.

While their rights and responsibilities in this regard are enshrined in the Constitution, there is no law passed to recognize, permit and control community-based management of mud-flats, coral reefs and sea-grass beds, etc.  In large islands including Phuket, Samui and Chang, tourism is a major driver of the economy. For the last 40 years, the coastal zone has been the scene of severe conflicts between small scale fishermen and large commercial fishing businesses; and between local communities and investors in commercial prawn farms, tourism, and other development projects.

In many ways the tragedy of the 26 December 2004 Tsunami spurred a renewed interest in Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and rehabilitation of coastal ecosystems from sustainable livelihoods and disaster risk reduction. More recent (and still growing) concerns about the effects of climate change in the coastal zone, are helping to maintain that momentum.

The Thailand Coastal Forum is an opportunity to share and exchange experiences and lessons learned from a variety of recent initiatives, programmes and activities in the coastal zone – both in community-based  resource management;  sustainable fisheries and aquaculture (including certification) marine protected areas;  marine tourism;  climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.

It will identify workable solutions to pressing problems in the coastal zone; help to identify gaps that need to be filled  and prioritize issues for capacity-building, institutional development and legal/policy reform.