Multiple-Use Zoning and Tourism in Marine Protected Areas : A Case Study of Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park , Thailand

  • Roman G
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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can function to meet conservation, tourism, and fisheries
objectives. However, effective MPA planning and management is often constrained by limited
institutional capacity, a lack of data, and a lack of knowledge integration. If MPAs are to be
useful tools for marine resource management, integrated management plans based on applied
research must be designed and documented.
The goal of this study was to reduce conflicts between tourism and conservation at the
Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park, Thailand, by drafting a multiple-use zoning plan. Two
studies were conducted to provide the basis for the draft zoning plan. The first study, a coral reef
field survey, assessed differences among sites for four criteria: trampling vulnerability, coral life
form diversity, coral reef sizes, and suitability for restoring degraded branching Acropora spp.
corals (which are threatened throughout much of their range and provide important habitat for
many species). The second study administered a survey in four languages to 275 respondents
taking part in organized snorkelling tours, and assessed visitor satisfaction, differences in
perceptions between subgroups of people, and "Limits of Acceptable Change" (LAC) for social
and biophysical indicators of high-quality snorkelling experiences.
Six key management recommendations were derived from the coral reef field study and
the visitor survey. First of all, a Conservation Zone with tourism and fisheries strictly prohibited
should be designated at a site with high vulnerability to trampling, high coral life form diversity,
the largest coral reef size, and suitable areas for restoring Acropora spp.. Second, a Restoration
Zone, with tourism and fisheries strictly prohibited, should be designated at a heavily degraded
site with large amounts of dead Acropora spp.. Third, Tourism Zones should be established and
promoted for intensive snorkelling at two sites deep enough to prevent snorkellers from trampling
corals, yet shallow enough to permit people floating on the surface to view coral reefs. Fourth, all
other snorkelling and diving sites should be designated as Ecotourism Zones managed for more
peaceful settings, characterized by fewer people (LAC: 30 people max.), fewer boats (LAC: two
boats max.), and smaller boats. Ecotourism Zones are likely to be particularly important for
satisfying European and North American tourists, who were shown to be more sensitive to
crowding than most Thai visitors. Fifth, the following LAC standards for coral conditions should
be applied within both Ecotourism and Tourism Zones: (i) proportion of dead coralspatches of dead coralsEcotourism Zones and Tourism Zones, in order to contribute towards conservation and
restoration objectives, reduce visitor exposure to fishing gear, enhance visitor safety, enhance fish community aesthetics, and improve satisfaction among visitors with a lot of previous experience
This draft zoning plan should be combined with visitor education and nature interpretation
programs, fisheries considerations, and improved management of coastal tourism development
and aquaculture. Extensive public review is also required, and co-management and adaptive
management approaches should be taken during plan implementation.

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  • George S J Roman

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