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The Tragic Demise Of Phu Quoc's Coral Reefs

Phu Quoc, Vietnam's top island destination, has been the subject of environmental controversy for a while now. Between luxury hotels dumping wastewater into the ocean, thousands of sea cucumbers washing up on shore to die and local authorities hoping to clear 2,000 hectares of forests and farmland for the sake of a high-end casino and the world's second largest zoo, there's cause to believe that, for better or worse, big changes are coming to the island.

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The most recent blemish on Phu Quoc's environmental track record is its dying coral reefs, reports Thanh Nien. Once home to an abundance of the underwater ecosystems, the island is now at risk of losing yet another of its precious natural resources thanks to pollution and lax environmental regulations.

According to Tuoi Tre, the death of Phu Quoc's reefs started to reach crisis levels around 2010, when climate change began overheating the sea water.

At the time, a full 56.6% of the island's reefs had been destroyed. But global warming was just one of the culprits: to this day, fishermen routinely pour chemicals into the ocean to yield a greater catch, while tourists pluck hunks of coral reef from the sea to take home as souvenirs.

Today, nearly 90% of the coral in some parts of the island is lost.

The Phu Quoc Coral Conservation Center is responsible for the protection of nearly 10,000 hectares south of island, according to Thanh Nien. Though the organization has warned that rapid destruction of the island's reefs could both affect its diving industry and – more importantly – lead to the mass death of other creatures, including sea cucumbers and starfish, it is unclear what the organization itself is doing to combat this issue.

While its current tourism numbers continue to grow, this type of environmental destruction will dictate not only the fate of Phu Quoc's marine life but also that of its tourism industry. Without the pristine beaches and clear waters that attracted visitors to the island in the first place, Phu Quoc may lose out on the tourism game before it's truly reached its potential.

[Top photo via Thanh Nien]

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