Project Goals 

The aim of the project is to conduct an initial assessment of the coral reef resources around Koh Smach, with the prospect of developing a more in depth study of the reefs and implementing local training and education.


Project location

Koh Smach, an island in the Gulf of Thailand located off the coastal province of Koh Kong, Cambodia



To conduct scientific baseline surveys within the area, including participation from Cambodian locals; this will include fish belt transects, invertebrate belt transects and substrate line transects;
To assess the anthropogenic impacts on Koh Smach’s coral reefs analysing the rate of coral bleaching;
To assess the local communities understanding, attitudes, opinions and values concerning reef biodiversity and reef conservation by employing socio-economic surveys;
To initiate local training, education and public awareness on how to manage coral reefs within the area, including regulation;
To establish a sustainable management plan for the area, potentially including a campaign to designate the area as a MPA.


Cambodia’s coastline has around 69 islands, many of which are fringed by coral reefs and associated seagrass beds and mangrove habitats, providing critical habitats for thousands of marine species.  Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, with those of Southeast Asia being the most species-rich on earth, but also the most threatened of any region. Over half of Southeast Asia’s reefs are classified as “high risk”, primarily from coastal development and fishing related pressures. Tourism in Cambodia is on the increase, the number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia in the first nine months of 2010 was 1.8 million, an increase of 15% compared to 2009.

Information about Cambodia’s reef systems is sparse and poorly documented, so there is a high necessity for accurate data on the current status of these critical habitats. Furthermore, assistance is needed for long-term monitoring programmes supported by in-country commitment.

This project will contribute to the monitoring of reef health on the Island of Koh Smach, and whether the reef has suffered as a result of anthropogenic activity.  Reef Check methodology will be used to survey sites around Koh Smach in order to quantify the abundance, diversity and composition of selected fish, invertebrate and benthic species. The outcomes of this project will be a collection of data on the abundance and diversity of the afore mentioned taxa, as well as a record of coral damage and other anthropogenic effects, such as coral bleaching, breakage, or marine debris. The collection of this data is significant due to the lack of data on reef species in Cambodia as previously mentioned. Interviews will be carried out with the local community to establish their attitudes, opinions, understanding and values of biodiversity conservation. Biological and socio-economic data will be used to create a sustainable management plan for the coral reefs, which will potentially lead to the establishment of a MPA.

The establishment of an MPA could have several positive effects on the surrounding area, including the employment of local staff and students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, as liaison officers. Furthermore, the establishment of a MPA would prevent foreign large-scale fishing trawling around Koh Smach, protecting sustainable fish resources for the islands inhabitants.



This project is currently being launched, so it is still in its preliminary phases. Past studies in Cambodia have produced estimates of species number for a variety of taxa, including hard and soft corals, marine fish and molluscs. However, the most recent of these studies was published in 2003, meaning that there is need for more up-to-date records. As such, this project will pioneer an in-depth study that will hopefully contribute to the protection and management of these systems.

Project partners & staff

Frontier is currently in the process of finalising a project agreement with:

  • The Fisheries Administration (FiA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Fisheries (MAFF)

SEE’s field team is comprised of a Project Coordinator, and assistant research officers