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Tourism hurts coral reefs in central Vietnam

During low tide between lunar March and July every year (late March – mid September on the Gregorian calendar this year), shallow coral reefs and other marine ecosystems are often revealed along Ganh Yen Beach, a popular natural attraction in Quang Ngai.

Irresponsible tourism activities, however, have sparked outrage among Vietnamese netizens and prompted local authorities to take stronger measures to protect the coral reefs.

“Many tourists see the corals from afar. But a big number of visitors damaged the corals as they stepped on them to take photos. Some even broke off pieces of corals to take home as souvenirs,” the Binh Hai Commune people’s committee stated on loudspeakers placed at the beach.

VnExpress reader Hai Nguyen commented that poor awareness among local tourists place coral reefs at higher risk of damage and threatened the marine ecosystem, calling on local authorities to act before it is too late.

Echoing the sentiment, reader Nguyen Thanh Tuan said when discovering a beautiful and pristine destination, he didn’t dare upload pictures on social media fearing the exposure may lead to its ultimate destruction.

Ngo Van Thinh, chairman of Binh Hai District, home to Ganh Yen Beach, said authorities have put up warning signs and dispatched patrols to restrict violations.

Those damaging coral reefs will be fined VND5-10 million ($215-$430) while a fine of VND3-5 million will be applied to those found littering, he said.

Thinh admitted that without proper protection, coral reefs on Ganh Yen Beach are in extreme danger of being destroyed.

The corals on Ganh Yen beach are in many dazzling hues. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh. 

The corals on Ganh Yen Beach are in many dazzling hues. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh. 

According to Assoc Prof Dr Tran Tan Van, director of the Hanoi-based Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, Ganh Yen corals are still growing, indicating the marine environment is flourishing. The government should restrict visitors to avoid the corals being trampled on, he stressed.

Coral damage has become a major concern in Vietnam where 90 percent of the country’s reefs are threatened by pollution, with over 70 marine species listed in Vietnam‘s Red Book of Endangered Species, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Last year, reality show Amazing Race Vietnam met with public backlash for having cement blocks placed on a coral reef in the central coastal province of Phu Yen.

Worldwide, coral reefs have come under growing stress as a result of rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change and other human-induced pressures including overfishing, pollution and tourism.

Coral reefs in shallow waters are among the ecosystems most threatened by climate change and a key barometer of global warming impacts.

Globally, about half a billion people rely on corals for food or to make a living – or for coastal defense, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.