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Conference hears of destruction of marine environment

Released at: 16:24, 21/10/2019

Conference hears of destruction of marine environment

Photo: Goby Project

MARD, Da Nang authorities and International Union for Conservation of Nature hold conference on October 19 in central city.

by Jessica Nguyen

“Over-exploitation of tourism and the destruction of marine products have a major impact and cause serious consequences for marine nature, reducing the quality of aquatic ecosystems,” a conference on “Solutions to improving management efficiency in Vietnam’s protected marine areas to sustainably develop the marine economy in association with green development” in central Da Nang city on October 19 heard. The conference was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in coordination with the Da Nang City People’s Committee and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Ocean plastic waste pollution is one of the most serious and urgent environmental problems of today and on a global scale. Each year, the world produces 40 million tons of plastic, of which 79 per cent of plastic waste is released into landfills or the environment, 12 per cent burned in incinerators, and only 9 per cent recycled.

Vietnam has been ranked among the 20 countries in the world releasing the largest amount of plastic waste into the environment, with around 0.28 to 0.73 million tons discharged each year. Plastic accounts for about 8-12 per cent of domestic solid waste, and each household uses 1kg of plastic bags every month. Every day, about 80 tons of plastic is released into the environment in the two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In addition, according to a report from MARD, the island districts of Ly Son, Cu Lao Cham, and Phu Quoc are “hot spots” for marine conservation but coastal environmental pollution from tourism waste, especially plastic waste, is becoming more serious and will have consequences in the future.

There are 16 protected marine areas in Vietnam that are gradually being established and completed, contributing significantly to the maintenance and protection of marine ecosystems and aquatic resources and serving the twin purposes of conservation and sustainable development in the fisheries sector.

However, the planning and implementation of protected marine areas still falls short of targets, primarily due to limited budgets, while regulations relating to marine conservation management still lack uniformity.

Coordination between ministries, branches, and localities has not been proactive or uniform. Some localities have not really paid attention to or invested in marine conservation. Meanwhile, capacity and experience among employees involved in conservation work remains limited.

According to figures from the General Department of Fisheries, in the past four years, there have been 767 violations of State management regulations relating to marine conservation. Experts, however, say the actual number is much higher. In addition, the exploitation and catching of rare and precious seafood species remains all too common. In particular, the use of drag nets or banned fishing gear in marine conservation zones still occurs but authorities do not impose sanctions.

Referring to the difficulties in ensuring efficiency in protected marine areas, participants at the conference agreed that a lack of human resources and funding are the most important factors. The clash between conservation and economic development is also a difficult issue to resolve. Mr. Jacob Brunner from IUCN said that, in Vietnam, strict protection areas for marine conservation are quite limited, at less than 1 per cent of its ocean area, while according to international standards it should be 30 per cent.

Many recommendations to reduce plastic waste in the ocean were made at the conference, such as reviewing and developing local guidelines for plastic waste management, introducing specific regulations on fishing, exploiting, and raising aquaculture products, organizing annual forums between localities to share results on protecting the ocean and reducing plastic waste, raising awareness in the community about ocean protection, managing waste discharge from ships and boats, including fishing, tourist and cargo vessels, and recycling fishing gear and avoiding leaving unused fishing gear in the ocean that become garbage later.

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