Vietnam has banned swimming and scuba diving off Hon Mun Island in an attempt to revive its damaged coral reef.
Recent photos taken off Hon Mun Island (also known as Ebony Island)—about 14km from the city of Nha Trang and popular with divers thanks to its diverse ecosystem—showed the reef bleached and damaged.
Consequently, the Nha Trang Bay management authority has decided to halt swimming and scuba diving activities in areas around Hon Mun Island, Macau News Agency reports.
In a statement, the authorities said the ban was to “evaluate the condition of the sensitive area so that an appropriate plan to enact the sea conservation area” could be made.
Around 60 percent 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 percent.
Authorities have blamed the shrinking ecosystem on climate change, noting that powerful storms in 2019 and 2021 had damaged the coral and also blamed illegal fishing, dredging, construction of industrial parks and waste disposal.
Divers have expressed disappointment and frustrations over the decision to close the waters. “Swimming and diving activities were the least influence on the coral reefs, compared to other activities,” diver Nguyen Son, from Ho Chi Minh City, told AFP.
Nha Trang is one of the most important tourist hubs of Vietnam, thanks to its beaches with fine and clean sand and the clear ocean water with mild temperatures all year round.