Preliminary investigation by State Marine Watch officials showed some unidentified black matter in the sea near Koh Samet's Ao Phrao beach in Rayong province.
“We found that some of the coral near the beach had also turned black,” Achit Sitthichai, a marine expert from Marine and Coastal Resource Conservation Centre Division 1 in Rayong, said after a 30-minute dive to study the changes caused by the oil spill. He also found black sediments under the seabed in the shallow zone.
“I cannot explain the cause of this change. We will have to wait for experts to identify these black objects and the change in the coral reef’s colour,” he added.
Achit and his team began their mission to survey and monitor the damages caused to the coral reef and marine lives around the island on Tuesday.
After the dive just off Ao Phrao beach, the team headed for Pla Tom Bay to the south of the island. The dive mission had to be temporarily called off due to bad weather conditions.
“We have to stop for a while. It’s too dangerous,” he said.
Once the storm had passed, Achit and his team travelled to Pla Tom Bay, which is home to hump, staghorn and disc coral. Five years ago, this reef was found naturally degraded and now they are waiting for its recovery.
After 30 minutes under water in this spot, Achit and his team found that though the physical condition of the coral reef had not changed, there was an oil film on the area. He also found red sediment floating in the sea at this site. “I could smell oil while diving there,” he said.
Achit and his team will be diving regularly for a few months to ensure that the precious coral remain in good condition.