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  Enviroment Research & Protection

Fishermen protect Khanh Hoa’s coral reef

The vibrant coral reef draws tourists to Khanh Hoa Province

The coral reefs and the rich marine biodiversity of the Ran Trao coastal region, a tourist hot spot, in Khanh Hoa Province have found unlikely saviours in a bunch of fishermen, who despite their many handicaps are protecting this ecologically sensitive area for future generations.

Motivated only by their love for the sea, these local fishermen from the coastal village of Xuan Tu Village in Van Hung Commune of Van Ninh District, have proved a boon to this region rich in rare marine flora and fauna, including abalones, holothurians, sea horses and actinia.

The region, which has coral reefs covering 60 per cent of the area, is also an important centre for breeding lobsters, and reportedly has about 1,700 breeding cages.

But, unlike the Hon Mun coastal area in the province’s Nha Trang City, Ran Trao has become an important tourist spot thanks to the efforts of this team of fishermen who have protected the coast and the rich marine life.

The team, currently managed by the district authorities, was first formed by a two-year project to preserve Ran Trao coastal area, funded by an international organisation specialising in marine research, which ended in 2003.

The five-member team have toiled on to protect the coral reefs even after the project ended, which, according to a recent survey of the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute, has helped in increasing the density of a variety of fish in Ran Trao from 240 in 400sq.m to 555.

From early 2004, the region has also seen the migration of fish which procure high prices in the market, according to experts from the oceanography institute.

Nguyen Van Chim, 54, and Nguyen Van Phuong, 52, are members of the five-member watchmen team who have provided their services free to preserve this chain of corals and marine life.

According to Chim, head of the team, all they have to do their job is a tent, a small boat plus dozens of litres of petrol every month supplied by the local authorities. The team which monitors the region all day co-ordinates with the local border station.

Chim, a tourist-guide and a diver, knows the Ran Trao area like his palm and has a deep knowledge about coral reefs. He has, with his experience, not only protected them but successfully grown them. The team has borrowed VND20 million (US$1,270) as preferential loan for two years from the local authorities to protect the area.

According to Chim, after the Ran Trao marine preservation project began in 2001, local fishermen who were free to catch fish and shrimp from the area were banned from fishing. But, illegal fishing has continued.

"We had to chase away many ships while on patrol at night. Despite our warnings many of them persist and we have to literally chase them away from the banned area.

We have also been attacked by illegal fishing vessels," he said.

The team is handicapped as they do not have any weapons for defence or tools for communication. Also, the regulation which does not allow them to seize a ship found violating has effectively tied their hands.

"This regulation is a serious obstacle, as our task is limited to warning violators. We cannot seize them even if they resist us," he said.

VNS - (16/03/2005)

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