China Oceanic Development Foundation: Balancing Marine Environmental Protection and Growth of “Blue Economy”: China and Thailand’s Cooperation on Marine Spatial Planning

19-Oct-2021 Intellasia | PR Newswire Asia | 4:26 PM Print This Post

BEIJING, Oct. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- In recent years, Thailand has been developing a variety of ocean-related industries including tourism, fishery, and transportation. Marine spatial planning, as a critical tool to balance marine environmental protection and the growth of the "blue economy", has received more attention and recognition from Thailand.

Thailand began cooperation with China on marine spatial planning in 2017 in order to improve data observation, talent training and management capability. In order to promote marine spatial planning to develop a blue economy, the First Institute of Oceanography of China, together with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources of Thailand and Prince of Songkhla University of Thailand, funded by China Oceanic Development Foundation, carried out a series of collaborative studies on marine spatial planning for two islands: Koh Lan and Koh Sichang of Thailand.

Located to the west of Pattaya, Chonburi Province of Thailand, Koh Lan is a well-known tourist attraction, drawing more than five million visitors each year. However, due to a lack of scientific management and conflicting opinions on space utilization, the island was long plagued by a series of environmental and ecological problems such as deterioration of water quality and coral reef degradation which posed serious challenges to the sustainable development of both ecosystems and economy.

"During our cooperation, we adopted the problem-oriented approach to balance the relationship among protection and utilization of marine resources, the integration of marine spatial elements and the optimization of marine spatial structure," said Zhang Zhiwei, head of the research team from the First Institute of Oceanography, China.

Considering that Koh Lan was greatly affected by intense tourist activities, the research team conducted surveys on tourist behavior via questionnaire and researched for approaches to optimize the spatial layout of Koh Lan in view of tourists' perceptions. They also carried out on-site observations and investigations on marine hydrodynamics and vegetation communities of the island. With this knowledge, they analyzed the potential impact of discharged pollutants on coral reefs and conducted marine ecology assessments around Koh Lan.

With a large amount of information gathered including high-resolution remote sensing images, meteorological data, nautical charts, vectorized data of land utilization and vegetation cover, researchers grasped the basic characteristics of the resource, environment and human activities in Koh Lan and developed a scheme for identifying and assessing the compatibility of ecologically sensitive areas and regional marine exploitation requirements by using remote sensing technique and Geographic Information System (GIS) method.

With the support of the local authority of Pattaya, having organized six workshops and conducted more than 10 stakeholder consultations, the scheme of marine spatial planning of Koh Lan was finally submitted to the Chonburi Council of Thailand in 2019 and was officially incorporated into the legal documentary system of local marine management, which laid a solid foundation for the future management of Koh Lan.

As the second phase of China and Thailand's cooperative research on marine spatial planning, scientists have been carrying out their research in Koh Sichang, Chonburi Province of Thailand, where the tourism, fishery and shipping industry grew rapidly. In view of its characteristics such as multiple shipping lanes, multiple anchorages and complex situations of sea utilization, the research team collected remote sensing images, nautical charts and socio-economic statistical data and initially constructed an integrated management system of marine spatial planning.

Hindered by the pandemic, researchers from the two countries coordinated through video conferencing on field investigation of hydrological condition, water quality, island-land ecosystem and other elements around Ko Sichang.

"It would build a good foundation for systematic analysis of development and utilization of local environmental resources, which would help us make a more scientific and practical marine spatial planning scheme in case of relatively insufficient data in years to come," said Zhang Zhiwei.

In June 2019, the first training course on marine spatial planning was held in Pattaya, Thailand, with 40 participants from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Thailand. Scientists from China shared their experience on marine protection and management, laws and regulations, spatial technology, numerical simulation, etc. A series of activities such as group discussions, stakeholder role-playing and on-site investigation at Laem Chabang Port were carried out.

These activities strengthened the manpower base for upcoming cooperation on marine spatial planning between China and Thailand and promoted the sharing of experience and transfer of technology on marine spatial planning.

As a response to Global Marine Spatial Planning 2030 launched by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in 2019, Zhang Zhiwei and his colleagues are currently drafting guidelines on marine spatial planning, which provide general ideas for global governance.

"With this guideline, we hope that marine spatial planning could be globally popularized and introduced into regional marine management as an effective tool," said Zhang Zhiwei.


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