Located 70 km off the coast of Surat Thani province, Koh Tao Island is one of the world’s top ten learn-to-dive sites and Thailand’s most popular diving destination. Visited by more than 300,000 tourists per year, this small island has become an amalgamation of all the symptoms of environmental degradation. Income from both land and and sea-based activities are declining as a result.
The state of the coral reefs, which serve as the major attraction that brings tourists to Koh Tao, are at great risks both from direct causes (snorkeling and scuba diving activities, boat anchoring and marine debris) and indirect causes (wastewater discharge and sediment loads from construction activities). The environmental pressures from its own success, combined with a extreme hot weather event saw almost 80% of the reefs destroyed by 2010.
All key stakeholders and partners at local and national levels have actively taken part in the process of rehabilitating the islands ecosystems and discussing how to leverage financial resources for biodiversity conservation.
As a results, it was agreed that the Thailand Biodiversity Finance Plan will pilot for the first time a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme through collection of island visitation fees and setting up an environmental trust find in Koh Tao Island. Since Koh Tao is not a Marine Protected Area (or Marine National Park), there is no current system for collecting entrance fees. Following the PES framework, the island visitation fee will work by collecting user charges from beneficiaries or users of environmental services. Revenue generated by the island visitation fee will be channeled to the Koh Tao Trust Fund which in turn will be used for projects to protect and keep the Islands marine and land based biodiversity healthy.
BIOFIN Thailand is assisting in the facilitation and implementation of the pilot to collect island visitation fees to finance (i) coral reef restoration, (ii) a comprehensive marine turtle conservation programme, (iii) strengthen marine ecosystems’ resilience and (iv) measures which aim at reducing sources of land-based pollution and thus prevent any potential harm or damage to coastal and marine ecosystem in Thailand.
In the short video animation above created by Amita Anya B. Krich, 13, BIOFIN Thailand youth ambassador together with UN Women Intern, Meiqing, they are showing how empowering youth to advocate for biodiversity conservation can drive change in peoples mindsets about protecting biodiversity and the environment.