The island of Ko Tao in the Gulf of Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in South-East Asia for divers. It’s also the location for Big Blue Conservation, the winner of the Responsible Thailand Awards 2022 in the Marine, Nature and Heritage category. An offshoot of the well-established Big Blue Diving school, Big Blue Conservation has been carrying out invaluable work on Ko Tao through marine research, beach clean-ups and outreach programs.
Helping future generations
Big Blue Conservation has a simple, but admirable philosophy; protect the ecosystem of Ko Tao and inspire conservation through education. It’s something they achieve via a number of projects, but at the heart of this is education.
Big Blue Conservation can be described as a marine conservation school. As part of Big Blue Diving, they were one of the first dive schools on Ko Tao to establish a team dedicated to scientific marine research. Big Blue has actively assisted marine research scientists and students conducting field research. This includes providing data on diver-related reef damage, the impact of discarded fishing nets and the effects of coral bleaching.
To help get the message across to future generations, Big Blue Conservation has also introduced a Marine Conservation curriculum to the pupils at the International School of Samui.
Protecting marine life
The waters and reefs around Ko Tao teem with marine life and the Big Blue team strives to protect this ecosystem via a number of different schemes. Big Blue Conservation is part of Big Blue Diving, a collaborative of scuba divers who care passionately about the environment where they live, work and play. To ensure diving activity has no detrimental impacts on the reefs, Big Blue Conservation has worked alongside Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), the Royal Thai Navy and other Ko Tao dive operators to ensure suitable installation and maintenance of dive site mooring lines.
The Big Blue team host an annual fundraiser to raise money for Shark Guardian who in turn work diligently to protect shark populations which are vital for a healthy marine ecosystem. Reefs are also monitored for damage and the group contributes towards a national photo identification database to track local whale shark populations.
The environmental work continues above the waves too. Big Blue Conservation takes an active role in island-wide cleaning efforts in addition to regular beach clean-ups. They also work closely with the local community group, Save Koh Tao, a collection of businesses and individuals who want to protect the island’s natural resources and support sustainable tourism on Ko Tao.
While Big Blue has its own diving school, they also work with other Ko Tao dive companies to ensure best practices are adhered to. Visitors to Ko Tao who want to support responsible tourism can select from a variety of marine conservation programs. Courses available include sea turtle ecology, a coral ID course, and a marine ecology course. If you have more time available and would literally like to dive in more to conservation, join any of the marine conservation internships.
In the waters near Ko Tao’s Sairee Beach, Big Blue Conservation has created an artificial reef to encourage coral growth. Staff from Big Blue pay regular visits to the reef to keep it clean and replace any diseased or damaged coral. More artificial reefs are planned in areas that are not currently used as dive sites. The aim is to create new dive sites to take pressure off some of Ko Tao’s most active dive locations. There are also plans to establish coral nurseries close to the most popular dive sites so that any damaged coral can be safely transplanted.
Good to know
To find out more about the work of Big Blue Conservation and support responsible tourism in Thailand, check out the links below:
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