During low tide between the third and seventh lunar months every year (late March – mid September on the Gregorian calendar this year), shallow coral reefs and other marine ecosystems emerge in the open along Ganh Yen Beach, a popular attraction in the central province.
However, many ignorant and careless tourists pay no heed to protecting and preserving the precious resource in their eagerness to take selfies and photographs.
Their actions in stepping on the reefs and damaging them have sparked outrage and prompted authorities to take stronger measures to protect the coral reefs.
“Many tourists are content to see the corals from a distance. But a large number of people damage the area and the corals, stepping on them to take photos. Some even break off pieces of corals to take home as souvenirs,” says a loudspeaker announcement by the Binh Hai Commune’s administration that advises visitors to refrain from damaging the fragile marine ecosystem.
A VnExpress reader, Hai Nguyen, lamented the poor awareness show by local tourists and the risk they posed to the environment. He called on local authorities to act before it’s too late.
Another reader, Nguyen Thanh Tuan, said that he does not dare to upload pictures of beautiful and unspoiled places that he finds on social media, fearing that their exposure would lead to the destruction of their pristine nature and beauty.
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.
People found damaging coral reefs or littering will be fined VND5-10 million ($215-$430) and VND3-5 million respectively, he said.
Thinh admitted that without proper protection, coral reefs in 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.
Associate Prof Dr Tran Tan Van, director of the Hanoi-based Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, said Ganh Yen corals were still growing, indicating that the marine environment was 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, experts say.
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.