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Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand

They warn economic reboot could exacerbate environmental problems

Divers clean reefs off the coast of the Thai island of Koh Phangan. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Follows)

KOH PHANGAN, Thailand -- It is 9 a.m. on a sultry Sunday morning off the coast of Koh Phangan, a popular tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand. More than 30 divers are getting ready to plunge into the tropical waters -- not to marvel at the underwater world but to spend the day removing kilometers of abandoned fishing nets that lie on the ocean floor, snagged on rocks and coral and suffocating marine life.

These weekly diving trips are organized by Sitthiroj Kaenongsamed, a local diver and environmental activist. "The first time just three of us retrieved 700 kg of nets," says Sitthiroj. "We realized that there are a lot of nets down there and we keep finding new ones."

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