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Less tourism and waste due to the pan­demic near the Chàm Is­lands may help the marine ecosys­tem re­cover

CHÀM IS­LAND Less tourism ac­tiv­i­ties and waste around the Chàm Is­lands – a world bio­di­ver­sity re­serve site – would help the marine ecosys­tem in wa­ters off the is­lands re­cover after the two-month so­cial dis­tanc­ing order due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Ex­perts and staff from the Chàm Is­land Mar­itime Pro­tected Area (MPA) have made the state­ment after re­turn­ing from a reg­u­lar in­spec­tion on coral reefs and ecosys­tems at eight sites off the is­lands last week.

They said over-tourism re­sulted in degra­da­tion of the ecosys­tem off the is­lands in re­cent years.

Dur­ing the two-month so­cial dis­tanc­ing order, the is­lands, a pop­u­lar at­trac­tion wel­com­ing 2,000 tourists each day, did not record any div­ing tours or boat trips.

“Coral reef cov­er­age was well de­vel­oped, but we have been col­lect­ing de­tailed in­for­ma­tion for a fi­nal re­port on coral reefs. How­ever, many bot­tom feed­ers were recorded in coral reefs, es­pe­cially holothuria­n and sea urchins,” said Nguyễn Thị Thảo, a worker at the MPA.

“The num­ber of fish species liv­ing in the coral reefs was less than in pre­vi­ous checks.”

Vice di­rec­tor of the MPA, Nguyễn Văn Vũ sug­gested that the is­lands re­duce the num­ber of vis­i­tors from a max­i­mum of 3,000 to 1,000 each day to re­duce pres­sure on the marine ecosys­tem.

He said the is­lands need a break for marine species and seafood re­sources to re­cover.

The is­lands of­ten re­ceive 5 tonnes of waste each day, which mostly was in-or­ganic waste from tourists, not in­clud­ing waste wa­ter and fresh wa­ter con­sump­tion as well as seafood and forestry prod­ucts.

Ac­cord­ing to the MPA, more than 2,700 groups of coral species had been planted at 10 sites off the is­lands, and an area of 2,000sq.m of coral reef was de­vel­oped fol­low­ing a coral reef restora­tion project in 2015-17.

The re­serve cov­ers more than 33,000ha, in­clud­ing 1,500ha of trop­i­cal forests and 6,700ha of sea, fea­tur­ing a wide range of marine fauna and flora.

The is­lands are al­ready over­loaded, with a fleet of 152 boats in­clud­ing 145 speed boats trav­el­ling be­tween Cửa Đại Port in Hội

An and the Is­lands.

A re­port said the rapid in­crease of speed boats and fish­ing ves­sels was the main rea­son for 66 per cent of sea grass off the is­lands be­ing de­stroyed be­tween 200918.

The is­lands, 20km off the coast of Hội An, which was recog­nised as a World Bio­sphere Re­serve in 2009, is one of few places in Việt Nam suc­cess­fully cam­paign­ing against plas­tic bags.

Over-tourism has re­sulted in degra­da­tion of the ecosys­tem off the is­lands in re­cent years.

Photo cour­tesy of Chàm Is­lands MPA

Coral is well de­vel­oped in wa­ters off the Chàm Is­lands. Lim­ited hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties have helped the marine ecosys­tem re­cover.

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