Research Team Says Coral Reefs Still Intact

A team of Singaporean experts researching Cambodia’s coral reefs say the reefs are in excellent shape.

The team of 20 scientists and students from the Singapore International Foundation have been filming an underwater documentary around Koh Kong with an eye to promoting ecotourism and scuba diving in the impoverished province. While experts say coral is declining at an alarming rate worldwide, “our coral reefs are still intact,” said Touch Seang Tana, a Ministry of Agriculture fisheries specialist who accompanied the team.

Koh Kong’s coast is carpeted with thick forests and mangroves, and its coral reefs are vibrant and healthy, Touch Seang Tana said. He noted, however, that some reefs near Koh Sdach, off the coast of Koh Kong, have been destroyed by explosives and illegal fishing methods.

The foundation plans to work with Cambodian officials to train locals about ecotourism and new fishing techniques, Touch Seang Tana said. The film and other promotional materials will be re­leased late this year.

In another matter, Cambodia’s Ream National Park will be one of four sites worldwide to benefit from a multimillion-dollar pilot project geared at protecting the world’s coral reefs, according to a report by the Inter Press Service.

The $10 million, UN-funded project will set up experimental programs at four sites around the world, including the one at Ream in Sihanoukville municipality, the report stated.

Ministry of Environment officials said they have not been notified of the project. UN Environ­ment Program officials could not be reached for comment.

In 1997, Minister of Environ­ment Mok Mareth said coral reefs in Sihanoukville faced a major threat from scavengers, who ran a lucrative trade selling coral trinkets to tourists. But environment officials say threats, particularly from the use of explosives and other illegal fishing tech­niques, have since been curbed by stepped-up law en­forcement.

Coral is produced by rock-like shell secretions from sea creatures, which then become the animals’ homes.



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