With a rich cultural and ecological diversity as well as a unique wealth of species, Vietnam has huge potential for promoting its tourism brand but like many other developing nations, it is dealing with the thorny issue of harmonising socio-economic development, of which tourism is a key driver, with environmental conservation. A report by online Nhan dan newspaper.

Particularly advantageous for tourism is Vietnam’s long coastline, stretching over 3,260 km with over 3,000 islands, including Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spartly) archipelagoes. Vietnam’s sea is home to more than 20 typical types of ecosystems. These ecosystems are of considerable importance to many native and non-native aquatic species, to the livelihood of millions of people and offer something special for Vietnam’s tourism brand.

Biodiversity of marine ecosystems is key to the sustainable development of marine economic sectors such as tourism, fisheries, and marine medicine.

However, conservation and economic development are difficult to balance. If a too big focus is placed on conservation, the marine economy can be slow to develop, but if too much emphasis is given to marine economic development, it is difficult to achieve the goal of marine conservation. This means the littoral states, including Vietnam, are left having to choose between marine conservation and economic development. Meanwhile, the general trend of today's world is a harmonious combination of marine conservation and economic development for sustainable development.

Deputy General Director Pham Ngoc Son of Vietnam General Department of Sea and Islands under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said that Vietnam has focused on theimplementation of international commitments to promote marine conservation over the last years.

The Prime Minister issued a decision in May 2010, approving the planning system of marine protection areas by 2020, in which the plan sets out the goal that by 2015, Vietnam would establish and put into operation 16 protected marine areas. The plan was to create a legal basis for relevant ministries, sectors and localities to be more active in protecting fishery resources, the marine environment and landscape, whilst promoting the development of the Vietnamese tourism brand and a sustainable marine economy.

Son said that to conserve marine ecosystems and gradually develop the value of Vietnam’s tourism brand, it is necessary to improve policies and laws of the sea and islands, which focuses on building documents guiding the implementation of the Law on Vietnamese Sea adopted by the National Assembly in 2012, to improve the legal framework for management and protection of marine areas, islands and the economic development of Vietnam, and to create favourable conditions for international integration and cooperation in the field.

He also proposed to encourage participation of various economic sectors in developing brandnames for protected marine areas and their products to protect the marine environment and facilitate marine economic development.

In addition, it is necessary to develop mechanisms and policies to ensure coordination between ministries, sectors and localities along the coast with clear decentralisation in the management of protected marine areas to address overlapping and duplication in responsibilities.

Also it is important to improve the capacity of staff working in marine conservation and develop community-based management models to encourage local residents to get involved in the development and management of protected marine areas, thus improving the livelihood of local communities.-VNA