Scientists have raised the alert on the serious degradation of marine resources within over 1 million sq. km. of sea waters, with over 80 percent of coral reefs listed as endangered.

Dr. Du Van Toan from the Sea and Islands Research and Management Institute under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said a survey conducted in 2002 revealed that up to 80 percent of the national coral reefs were threatened to extinction, of them 50 percent were at the alarming rate.

He blamed the problem on environmental pollution, rapid urbanisation, rampant exploitation and climate change.

Toan called for timely measures for reasonable and sustainable exploitation of marine resources, emphasising the need for the Government to complete a comprehensive legal system to protect degrading marine, coastal and island creature resources as well as ecosystems.

Measures should also be taken to expand the territory of sea waters earmarked for special protection, diversify models of marine resources conservation such as “ Sea Parks ”, “Coastal Reserves”, “Coral Reefs Reserves” and “See Weed Zones”, Toan said.

The scientist called for the construction of banks of rare sea creature genres and stronger cooperation with foreign countries and international organisations in conserving marine resources and establishing cross-border marine resource reserves.

Vietnam boasts over 4,000 islands and over 20 types of ecological systems, in addition to more than 1 million sq. km. of sea waters, which are habitats for some 11,000 species, including 2,000 fish species. The national marine ecosystem is marked with the existence of coral reefs, sea weeds and wet-lands.

There are seven biosphere reserves recognised with international status, from the Red River Delta and Cat Ba islands in the north, to the coast and islands of Kien Giang province and the Western Nghe An in the central region and the Can Gio wetland, Cu Lao Cham bird sanctuary and Ca Mau cape in southernmost Vietnam. They have been grouped into seven national parks, four natural reserves and 16 marine reserves.

The nation has signed a number of international documents on marine environmental protection such as the Convention on Biodiversity, the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention.

However, Vietnam has not yet issued a law on marine environmental protection. With only the guideline of the Government decree on marine environmental and resource management, it is hard for the nation to take measures on maritime resource conservation in an effective way, Dr. Du Van Toan said./.