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Operation White Shark!

Whilst chartering a yacht in Phuket, you are blessed to see so many wonderful natural sites.

Mangroves are one of them, and they must be protected so that visitors like you can enjoy them for years to come.

phuket-islands-yacht-charter-1A survey conducted in 1971 established Phuket had over 33,000 hectares of protected mangroves, but in 2014 it was discovered almost a third of this had been lost to encroachment. Operation White Shark seeks to reclaim these encroached areas. There is a huge taskforce working on the project, to get back the biodiversity that the mangroves facilitate.

The initiative is led by Phuket’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and they are working across 23 provinces to tackle the problem. The quest won’t go without its difficulties with the land in question including parts of golf courses, marinas, and shrimp farms.

Nonetheless inspections started in May this year, and all parties involved are collaborating well with the authorities as they see the importance of the issue. Over 200 representatives, including some from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Internal Security Operations Command, and conservationists are all working together to get back these natural areas of beauty.

What are mangroves?

Mangrove as a word is sort of an umbrella term, which refers to a type of habitat – in the same way you may think about dessert, or rainforest for example. A mangrove has within it several types of flora and fauna within it, although there is a specific plant called a mangrove tree also. The tree, shrub, ground fern, or palm is usually over a few feet tall, and it grows above sea level. Mangroves in terms of the habitat can sometimes be known as a tidal forest due to their ocean edge location, or also mangrove forest which is most commonly used.

The mangrove found in Phuket whilst on board your yacht is not the same genetically as one you may find in another region such as Mexico or Australia. This is due to the tidal zone they lay within. They can appear similar, and provide similar bio-functions, but this is a reflection of its environment rather than the entity itself.

They are a highly adaptable force, which is why most encroachment is down to man’s doing – it happens so quick the plants can’t keep up!

Mangroves of Phuket

img2In Phuket, mangroves are a pivotal part of the island’s ecology. Fisherman are among the first to sing their praises as they act as nurseries for many a fish species, crustaceans too! Since the 2004 Tsunami there have been many local community projects dedicated to the restoration of mangroves, but as operation White Shark shows, there is still a long way to go. Mangroves are themselves a natural protector of those on the land when such a natural disaster strikes, giving another reason why encroachment battling projects are so important. In these storms the structures can suffer huge damage, and therefore need some TLC. Mangroves in Phuket also provide an important water filtration system – ridding waters of impurities and most importantly, carbon.

As well as their ecological, economical, and safety benefits already discussed. Mangroves in Phuket are an all-important visitor attraction. There are many ways to explore them, and to get a bit more up close and personal than is possible on the yacht (as they are in shallow waters). There are companies across the island offering mangrove tours in a number of different ways.

The way most popular with thrill seeking visitors is by quad bike! The pace sure provides a great alternative from the calming motion of the yacht, and is sure to get the adrenaline pumping! For the more eco-conscious there is the mountain bike option. This is also a great activity for those who like to keep active and keep fit. You get to explore hidden parts of the beautiful mangrove forests, and some companies also include local village tours within their packages which are quite off the beaten path. If you feel more at home on the water (which is most likely the case if you have chosen a yachting holiday!) there is also the opportunity to glide through the mangroves in a kayak! This is probably the best way to get up close and personal with some of the mangroves inhabitants such as snakes, birds, and even monkeys!

So where is Operation White Shark happening?

The provinces with the highest levels of encroachment include SamutSakhon, Phetchaburi, and Phang Nga – the latter being a popular destination for vacation yachters. Coastal forest areas have also suffered man made encroachment for housing, and also agriculture. In these areas it is believed that residents will be involved in the process to ensure minimum disruption and maximum progress.

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is aiming to pursue 2,400 hectares in 2016, and to build from there. An impressive target. One that can only be reached through the cooperation of locals, tourists, and businesses alike.

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