Phu Quoc Island’s coral reefs are dying

VietNamNet Bridge – Coral reefs on the seabed of Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island, are being destroyed at an alarming rate, Tuoi Tre Newspaper has reported.

Several reporters who recently joined divers and local fishermen on a dive to the seabed saw that the reefs were in a pitiful state.

Dead coral everywhere

Phu Quoc Island’s coral reefs are dying

If corals die off, the diving tourism industry will no longer exist for Phu Quoc.

"Previously, local residents collected coral for sale but after this act was banned, they stopped harvesting coral this way. But coral could not survive because of the use of rakes and toxic substances used to catch fish,” said a diver named Tam. 

Tam said that fish species are also sharply diminishing in number compared to a few years ago.

Diver Nguyen Van Tien said along the small islands to the north of Phu Quoc, such as Doi Moi, Mong Tay, Bang, or Thay Boi, which were known for stunning coral reefs, coral reefs have died en masse since April 2010, after the incident called "bleaching", which caused a sudden increase of temperature in the seabed.

According to Tien, in some places up to 90% of coral are dead. Many tourists were disappointed to witness the ruin of the coral "empire" in Phu Quoc, and Tien quit his job as a tour guide diver.

"The coral reefs in the north of the island and some distant points to the south are still at peace," a diver said.

"Only 30 percent of the corals at the depth of over 5-6 m are alive compared to that of eight years ago. In many places like Ky Lan, all coral is dead,” said a diver.

Some reporters dived to the depth of 10m, 15m and 20m around the islands to the south of An Thoi and what they immediately saw was rubbish, not coral. Corals and dead corals were surrounded by all kinds of waste, from wires to nets and plastic bags and cups. 

The Management Board of Phu Quoc Reserve said climate change and the rise of water temperature had caused coral death. But pollution is the main cause, it said.

"Pollution is caused by the development of tourism, the increase of sewage and garbage discharged into the environment, and fish catching activities," said Cuong, Director of the Management Board of Phu Quoc Reserve.

The death of coral also affects the life of other marine creatures.

Diving tourism threatened

An experienced diver said: "I took 100 foreign visitors to dive under the sea, and when they returned, all 100 people were not pleased to see the ruin of coral reefs and marine resources."

Mr. Tran Minh Dao, counselor of a diving center on Phu Quoc Island, said an Australian couple from the Great Barrier, which is the home to the largest coral reef in the world, booked a diving tour to see corals in Phu Quoc as they had heard that Phu Quoc coral reefs were very beautiful and diverse.

But after a day touring near the shore, the couple canceled the diving tour. The husband explained that they had seen tourists trampling coral reefs. The couple decided to sit on the boat and the wife bursted out crying.

"I have many friends who love Phu Quoc sea, for example, two German friends. They occasionally went to Phu Quoc for diving and ... collecting garbage at the seabed,” Dao said.

“Sometimes I measured water temperature at the seabed and it was up to 30 degrees Celsius, but coral develops well in the environment below 26 degrees Celsius. I worry that if corals die off, the diving tourism industry will no longer exist," he said.

The coral conservation zone is in the southern area of Phu Quoc Island, covering an area of around 10,000 hectares. In this area there are 108 species of coral, both hard and soft.

Five years ago Phu Quoc coral experienced widespread destruction (the phenomenon called bleaching), in which 56.6% of coral died. Observation data in 2014 shows that the amount of newly dead coral in many places was even more than live coral.


Phu Quoc Island’s coral reefs are dying