Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Coral reef areas to gain protection in Cambodia

Coral reef areas to gain protection in Cambodia

Coral reef areas to gain protection in Cambodia

Cambodia's first Marine Protection Area will be established around two emerging tourist destinations, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem islands, a British conservation group has announced.

NGO Coral Cay Conservation said last week that it has been invited to map out a 300-square-kilometre MPA by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The country’s rich coral reefs, which flank Preah Sihanouk province’s sandy coastline and feed the area’s vibrant marine life, could vanish within a decade if action is not taken now to conserve them, according to the group’s scientists.

The reefs protect and provide livelihoods for thousands of people living along the country’s shores, CCC Head of Science Jan-Willem van Bochove said.

When healthy, they were worth a hefty US$130,000 to $1.2 million per hectare, per year, based on such coral reef-derived benefits as fisheries, coastal protection, tourism and other livelihood benefits.

Coral species previously unheard of in Southeast Asia have been discovered by the team, which could create more dive and tourism interest in the area, but they were now in danger of being depleted, he said.

“White, sandy beaches, created by parrotfish grazing on the coral, would slowly melt away, and visitors would only see rocks covered in seaweed.

“Losing these reefs would mean robbing Cambodia’s people of one of nature’s most precious gifts.

“Strong political action is needed now – areas must be set aside for conservation, where only limited human interaction is allowed within delicate environments.”

The MPA would involve designating different zones, creating a continuous scientific monitoring survey and engaging with local fishermen.

The group conducted initial assessments in 2009, with a multiple-use fisheries management plan drawn up. The MPA would be active in three years.

Overfishing, pollution, sedimentation and re-suspension of sand from dredging had hurt the reef, ripping coral apart, as did the mass coral bleaching across the Gulf of Thailand in the summer of 2010, when high sea-surface temperatures lingered over a longer than usual period.

In addition, private fishing industry heavyweights trawling around Cambodia’s biggest port, at Sihanoukville, which brought $14 million into the country in the first half of this year, could plague the project, van Bochove said.

“It will definitely have an impact, although we haven’t been able to quantify it – the sediment stirred up by the trawlers smothers and kills the coal.”

Head of the Fishery Office in Preah Sihaouk province, Doung Sam Ath, said all relevant departments were aware of the project, but that the MAP was not in place yet.

The office could not confirm whether it would place restrictions on fishing companies around Sihanoukville.

To contact the reporter on this story: Claire Knox at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman