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Monday, August 15, 2022
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Monday, August 15, 2022
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    Vietnam halts scuba diving off popular Hon Mun island to protect coral reef

    HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam has banned swimming and scuba diving at a popular central tourist spot in an attempt to revive its damaged coral reef, officials said yesterday.

    The nation boasts over 3,200 kilometres of coastline with crystal clear waters, vibrant sea life and sandy beaches that are a huge tourism draw.

    Recent photos taken off Hon Mun island – about 14 kilometres from the city of Nha Trang and popular with divers thanks to its diverse ecosystem – showed the reef bleached and damaged. “The Nha Trang bay management authority decided to halt swimming and scuba diving activities in areas around Hon Mun island,” officials said.

    In a statement they said the ban was to “evaluate the condition of sensitive area so that an appropriate plan to enact the sea conservation area” could be made.

    Effective from yesterday, the ban would last “until further notice”, they added.

    Some 60 per cent of the coastal bed in the area was covered by living coral in 2020, according to state media, but more recent findings showed that had shrunk to less than 50 per cent. Previously local authorities blamed the shrinking ecosystem on climate change, noting that powerful storms in 2019 and 2021 had damaged the coral.

    They also blamed illegal fishing, dredging, construction of industrial parks and waste disposal.

    Divers expressed anger over the decision to close the waters.

    Vietnam’s decision follows a similar move in Thailand, which restricted access to Maya Bay – immortalised in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach – to give the local ecosystem a chance to recover.

    A section of reef bleached and damaged in Hon Mun island, Vietnam. PHOTO: ANN/VIETNAM NEWS
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