Monday, November 20 2017

VietNamNews

Rescuing the beautiful coral

Update: February, 05/2017 - 09:00
KA developed coral reef is home to many kinds of fish. Photo phuquocreal.vn
Viet Nam News

Coral is a beautiful sight underwater.

Coral reefs are made of little animals called corals that grow on top of older corals that have died.

However, they look a bit like plants.

People have ruined many corals in the sea around many countries, including off Viet Nam.

Climate change has also been a problem.

Now, people in the Phú Quốc Nature Reserve are trying to save the coral.

by Nguyễn Triều

When 11th lunar month comes, the high waves of the western sea in the southern province of Kiên Giang rise with each gust of north-easterly wind. From An Thới Harbour in Phú Quốc District, a wooden boat carries a group of conservationists from Phú Quốc Nature Reserve, heading south. A working day for the coral planters begins.

As soon as it approached the centre of Nhứt, a narrow channel that connects Phú Quốc Island and Dừa Islet, hundreds of miles off the coast, the boat encountered rows of waves each a metre in height. It bobbed up and down while the marking buoy, which can only be carried by two people, kept swinging aboard.

According to Nguyễn Linh Ngọc, the manager of the technology bureau from Phú Quốc Nature Reserve, the sailors’ trip loses its excitement if they don’t encounter waves on their trip to the open sea.

Garden on the seabed

After about 20 minutes, the boat reached Rỏi Islet and stopped amidst the waves, waiting for 56-year-old Nguyễn Văn Hải to row his boat and join the group. Hải has participated in the reserve’s coral reproduction project as a volunteer since its early days.

The boat continued to ride the waves heading for Đụng and Móng Tay Islets located in the heart of Phú Quốc Nature Reserve.

It got more and more windy by noon. The boat struggled to maintain its balance amidst the strong gusts.

On approaching the sea area between the islets, a conservationist from the reserve whose first name is Tha, holding a GPS device in one hand while the other held tightly to the side of the boat, shouted commands to the pilot, ordering him to steer the boat to a better position before anchoring: “Move a little bit to the left! A little bit more! Drop the anchor!”

The groups of three conservationists, among whom Ngọc was the leader, hastily moved around the deck after donning their diving equipment and took turns jumping into the sea. About 7 metres under the hull is a coral nursery garden of roughly 40sq.m that they had planted just months ago. It is located between the two islets, meaning the current can be rapid. Today’s task was checking the survival capacity of each individual coral and replanting the dead ones.

On the seabed, each coral branch was fixed to supports; plastic frames anchored to the seafloor. Most of the branches were alive with good signs of development, with soft white buds beginning to show. All the workers raised their thumbs, indicating their satisfaction.

It took a long time to plant such a coral nursery garden on the seabed, Linh said. The frame to transplant the coral, which might be as wide as 3sq.m, is made with PVC pipes that are connected to each other. On top of the frames, a pipe of about 12cm high is attached, waiting for the growing coral branches.

“Coral itself is sensitive to the surrounding environment so the location of the nursery garden has to satisfy very strict conditions, for example, the water source must not be polluted, and the location must not be too deep or too shallow. Most importantly, it has to be able to escape human influence,” Ngọc explained.

According to him, the selection of seed coral for genetic engineering also has to follow certain regulations. At present, Phú Quốc Nature Reserve only multiplies staghorn coral. The seed coral must show good development and consist of many branches.

When a seed coral has been selected, the technician will cut breed branches. They will then be preserved in sea water tanks that are provided with oxygen and moved to the awaiting locations. There the technicians will transplant each breed branch to available pipes and stabilise them with screws. The coral branches can then embark on their independent lives.

“The difficulty of nurturing coral is that its growth completely depends on itself and the surrounding natural environment. Humans cannot support its growth through fertilisation or spraying chemicals. Many coral individuals, which cannot be adaptive, will not survive,” Ngọc said.

Destroy in seconds, replant in years

According to Ngọc, the survival of the breed coral can be determined after two or three weeks. If they cannot continue, the branches will change colour and die.

However, it takes a long time for the surviving coral branches to continue growing and regenerate into new coral reef. Normally, it takes about two years to breed coral in the nursery garden in Phú Quốc, during which the technicians have to partake in dives regularly to keep a constant check.

After two years, the healthy breed coral will be separated from the garden to be planted permanently in the destroyed reef. It takes at least another three years for it to officially become a new “citizen” in the sea.

Surveys have shown that the total reef area in Phú Quốc District is about 500 ha, consisting of over 250 kinds of coral that are divided into 49 species. However, recent research also demonstrated that the population of coral in certain areas within the district has declined significantly.

In terms of natural influences, climate change over recent years, demonstrated by prolonged hot sunny days, has increased the temperature of the water near the islands, leading to death of coral. Meanwhile, human overexploitation for tourism purposes, like diving to see the coral has also left a profound impact, as the tourist boats anchor right above the reef area, and many tourists illegally pick the coral branches to take home as souvenirs.

However, the biggest factor affecting the coral is the activity of seafood exploitation conducted by local fishermen. It is estimated that there are over 150 kinds of fish residing in the coral reefs of Phú Quốc, many of which have high economic value, like grouper or red snapper, as well as many kinds of invertebrate animals and echinoderms.

Hải, who used to be a diving fisherman in the district, said: “Groupers tend to live in the coral reef. The divers carry nets along with them. As soon as they discover the fish, they will run around as fast as possible while casting their nets to catch the fish, and trample on the rocks and even the reefs.”

He admitted that he used to treat the coral like that.

“I just cared about earning a living at that time. I was unaware that if there was no coral, the fish would leave, and there would be no fish left for our descendants. I felt a deep sense of regret,” he said.

That might explain why he has quit fishing and followed his new passion: supporting the project of replanting coral as a contributor in Phú Quốc District in recent years.

According to Hải, what makes matters worse is the use of chemicals by diving fishermen. Such chemicals will be sprayed into the coral holes and reefs to temporarily paralyse the fish to ease their capture. As a kind of animal, coral is extremely sensitive to chemicals, so this form of fishing is highly dangerous.

“The cost of planting one square metre of coral reef is about VNĐ3 million (US$132) and it takes five years. Once the coral reefs have been destroyed, not only does it take great efforts to revive them, but it also causes huge damage to the eco-system and the source of seafood. It is a tremendous price to pay,” Ngọc said. VNS

 


 

GLOSSARY

When 11th lunar month comes, the high waves of the western sea in the southern province of Kiên Giang rise with each gust of north-easterly wind.

A gust is a sudden wind.

As soon as it approached the centre of Nhứt, a narrow channel that connects Phú Quốc Island and Dừa Islet, hundreds of miles off the coast, the boat encountered rows of waves each a metre in height.

An islet is a very small island.

To encounter something means to come across it.

It bobbed up and down while the marking buoy, which can only be carried by two people, kept swinging aboard.

Bobbed means floated making up and down movements.

A buoy is a marker that floats to show where a certain place is out on the water.

Aboard means on a boat.

According to Nguyễn Linh Ngọc, the manager of the technology bureau from Phú Quốc Nature Reserve, the sailors’ trip loses its excitement if they don’t encounter waves on their trip to the open sea.

A bureau means an office.

Hải has participated in the reserve’s coral reproduction project as a volunteer since its early days.

Reproduction is the process of a baby animal being born from parent animals, or a new plant growing from a seed.

A volunteer is someone who works without wanting pay.

The boat struggled to maintain its balance amidst the strong gusts.

For a boat to maintain its balance means for it to keep balanced.

On approaching the sea area between the islets, a conservationist from the reserve whose first name is Tha, holding a GPS device in one hand while the other held tightly to the side of the boat, shouted commands to the pilot, ordering him to steer the boat to a better position before anchoring: “Move a little bit to the left! A little bit more! Drop the anchor!”

A GPS device is a Global Positioning System device. With it you can tell exactly where you are on the Earth.

When a ship anchors, it stops in a certain place and throws down an anchor so it stays there.

About 7 metres under the hull is a coral nursery garden of roughly 40sq.m that they had planted just months ago.

The hull of a boat is the main body of the boat.

A nursery garden is a place where things grow from being very small to a larger size before being taken to live their adult lives elsewhere.

It is located between the two islets, meaning the current can be rapid.

Rapid means fast and powerful.

“Coral itself is sensitive to the surrounding environment so the location of the nursery garden has to satisfy very strict conditions, for example, the water source must not be polluted, and the location must not be too deep or too shallow. “

Sensitive means easily harmed.

According to him, the selection of seed coral for genetic engineering also has to follow certain regulations.

Genetic engineering is a scientific process that involves changing the insides of cells to make sure that a new plant, or animal, comes out in a specially designed way.

They will then be preserved in sea water tanks that are provided with oxygen and moved to the awaiting locations.

Preserved means kept in a certain condition.

The coral branches can then embark on their independent lives.

Embark means get going.

“The difficulty of nurturing coral is that its growth completely depends on itself and the surrounding natural environment.”

To nurture something means to take care of it while it is growing.

“Many coral individuals, which cannot be adaptive, will not survive,” Ngọc said.

If a coral is adaptive it can change to be able to survive under new conditions.

However, it takes a long time for the surviving coral branches to continue growing and regenerate into new coral reef.

Regenerate means grow again.

Normally, it takes about two years to breed coral in the nursery garden in Phú Quốc, during which the technicians have to partake in dives regularly to keep a constant check.

To partake in something means to take part.

A constant check means a check that happens all the time.

After two years, the healthy breed coral will be separated from the garden to be planted permanently in the destroyed reef.

Permanently means forever.

Surveys have shown that the total reef area in Phú Quốc District is about 500 ha, consisting of over 250 kinds of coral that are divided into 49 species.

A species is a type of plant or animal.

In terms of natural influences, climate change over recent years, demonstrated by prolonged hot sunny days, has increased the temperature of the water near the islands, leading to death of coral.

Prolonged means carried on for a long time.

Meanwhile, human overexploitation for tourism purposes, like diving to see the coral has also left a profound impact, as the tourist boats anchor right above the reef area, and many tourists illegally pick the coral branches to take home as souvenirs.

Exploitation means getting the most out of something. Overexploitation means getting far too much.

Souvenirs are things people take home to remind them of places they have travelled to.

It is estimated that there are over 150 kinds of fish residing in the coral reefs of Phú Quốc, many of which have high economic value, like grouper or red snapper, as well as many kinds of invertebrate animals and echinoderms.

Residing in coral reefs means living in coral reefs.

If something has a high economic value it is worth a lot of money.

Invertebrates are animals  that do not have backbones.

Echinoderms are creatures such as starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

As soon as they discover the fish, they will run around as fast as possible while casting their nets to catch the fish, and trample on the rocks and even the reefs.”

To trample on the rocks means to step on them and crush them.

“ I was unaware that if there was no coral, the fish would leave, and there would be no fish left for our descendants.”

Your descendants are your children, their children, their children and so on.

“I felt a deep sense of regret,” he said.

To feel regret means to wish you had not done something.

According to Hải, what makes matters worse is the use of chemicals by diving fishermen. Such chemicals will be sprayed into the coral holes and reefs to temporarily paralyse the fish to ease their capture.

To be paralysed means to be unable to move because of various things in the body no longer working.

“Once the coral reefs have been destroyed, not only does it take great efforts to revive them, but it also causes huge damage to the eco-system and the source of seafood.”

To revive coral reefs means to bring them back to life.

An eco-system is a community of living things. It can be as small as a pot plant or as big as the whole world.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.Phú Quốc Nature Reserve is in Kiên Giang province.

2.Coral is insensitive to the surrounding environment.

3.Nguyễn Văn Hải is very sorry that he once did not take good care of coral but has now changed the way he does things.

4.In four years time Nguyễn Văn Hải will turn 60 years old.

5.Anchors are used to make boats travel faster.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. True; 2. False; 3. True; 4. True; 5. False.

 

 

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