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20 Jan 2011: Reef Dive Sites in Thailand
Closed After Damage from Coral Bleaching

Authorities in Thailand are closing dozens of popular diving sites in the Andaman Sea after extremely high ocean temperatures caused widespread bleaching of coral reefs. More than half of Thailand’s 38,000 acres of coral reefs are suffering from bleaching, threatening the economy of one of the world’s top diving and beach resort regions. The diving prohibition is designed to prevent further damage to the reefs, which can die or become severely damaged when persistently high temperatures destroy or expel the single-cell algae that live within coral tissue and give it its brown color. Coral reefs in many parts of Southeast Asia have suffered from coral bleaching as ocean temperatures in the region continue to rise. Last April and May, sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea rose to 93 degrees F (34 C), which is 7 degrees F above the long-term average. Thai authorities said that diving sites where coral bleaching had spread to 80 percent of the reefs would be closed indefinitely. Many of the reefs are located in national parks.

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