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The Rain is Sweet in Chao Mai

By Anoulack Chanthavisouk, Vientiane Times, Laos

Since the " Raindrops"  came to Had Chao Mai village, the sea-grass and the dugongs have returned to its shores, according to a village leader.
 
"At the beginning the villagers didn’t know what the meaning of conservation was," said Mrs. Meeya Hawa, committee member of the Small Scale Fisheries Federation of Southern Thailand

When it arrived in Had Chao Mai, the "Raindrop", or Yadfon, a Thai rural development non-governmental organization based in Trang province, took residents to the nearby village of Laem Makham to introduce them to turtle conservation. The meaning of Yadfon is “Raindrop”.
 
After they understood the principle, they were able to continue the conservation work by themselves, said Mrs. Meeya.
 
Sea grass provides food for sea turtles and also dugongs. "It’s like a supermarket for villagers," said Mrs. Meeya.
 
Once sea-grass was protected by the villagers, it grew back. In 1993 dugongs reappeared off the coast.
 
Once they appreciated the important relationship between sea grass and marine species, villagers in Had Chao Mai stopped using fishing gear such as push nets, which sweep the sea floor and destroy sea grass.
 
Trawlers and push nets are mainly operated by commercial fishermen, not by villagers, according to Mrs. Meeya.
 
Much large-scale fishing also now takes place at night. The commercial fishermen use bright lights to attract fish, which they kill with cooking gas, according to Mrs. Meeya. The gas also damages coral reefs.
 
Coral reefs are turning yellow because of damage by gas according to divers.
 
Last year eleven dolphins were killed by the same fishing method, according to Meeya. Fishery officials claim the dolphins were killed by hook fishing. However, Meeya insisted that if the dolphins had been killed by hook fishing, only one or two would have died.
 
Later a dugong was found dead. Villagers say its skin was also discoloured and believe it had been affected by gas.
 
Since Yadfon started work at Had Chao Mai, villagers who went to the cities to work because of the decline in fish, have come back to carry on fishing, according to Meeya. "To live together in one family is Had Chao Mai villagers’ hope,"  she added.

Copyright 2009 IMMF.