Protecting rock crabs in Cu Lao Cham
Officially established in 2004, but the Cu Lao Cham MPA’s management board was only set up in 2006, in charge of coordinating the activities for marine protection. The protection committees, set up in four hamlets, with 20 members, are serving as the key persons in designing and implementing the activities in marine protection.
Prior to that, Cu Lao Cham local dwellers earned their living mostly from catching fishes and aquatic creatures around coral reefs, or go to forest to cut firewood for sale and cooking, and caught rock crabs for sale to travelers.
In 2006, Dr Mariana Damholt from Denmark came to make research about Cu Lao Cham’s rock crab and gave warnings about the possible extinction of the animal species.
Rock crabs, or Gecarcoidea lalandii, have a violet color, can be found in many places in Cu Lao Cham, but they are mostly in Hon Lao. This is a kind of marine animal, but they live in forests, in the caves along streams. In spawning season, the crabs move to coastal cliffs to lay eggs.
In the past, local residents in Cu Lao Cham sometimes caught rock crabs for food. Later, when Cu Lao Cham began receiving more and more travelers, the poor people in the locality tried to catch crabs at any time to sell to travelers.
However, in September 2009, the Hoi An City People’s Committee released a decision on prohibiting to exploit rock crabs.
The community of Cu Lao Cham dwellers also made commitments to join the activities to preserve rock crabs. Chu Manh Trinh, MA, from the Cu Lao Cham MPA and his colleagues set the initiative of setting up a rock crab bank and carried out scientific research works, established a club of rock crab catchers and lovers, and built up the indexes on crab supervision.
With the activities, Cu Lao Cham rock crabs have been strictly protected. Together with the rock crab protection, the Hoi An City authorities successfully persuaded local people to say “no” to plastic bags.
According to Trinh, the Cu Lao Cham MPA has helped local residents diversify the means of earning their living. Local residents now do not catch rock crabs, but the local economy still develops well with the development of ecotourism.
It was estimated that 43,000 travelers came to Cu Lao Cham in 2010, a four time increase in comparison with 2008.
Marine protection activities should be carried out immediately
The first MPA, Yellow Stone national part, was built in the US in 1872. To date, 5000 MPAs have been set up all over the world, accounting for one percent of the sea and ocean area. However, in Vietnam, MPA remains an unfamiliar concept, while the marine ecosystem and cultural heritages have been degrading due to the natural and artificial impacts.
Vietnam now has five MPAs, namely the Nha Trang Bay in Khanh Hoa province, Cu Lao Cham in Quang Nam, Con Co in Quang Tri, Hon Cau in Binh Thuan and Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang provinces. Besides, there are the national parks which also carry out marine protection activities such as Bai Tu Long, Cat Ba, Nui Chua and Con Dao.
Vietnam plans to form up 16 MPAs by 2015, which will account for 0.24 percent of the Vietnam’s sea area. Meanwhile, more MPAs may be set up in 2016-2020 with the total investment capital of 469 billion dong.
However, Pham Trong Yen, Deputy Director of the Department of exploitation and protection of fisheries resources, said that there exist too many challenges in marine protection. Especially, Vietnam still does not have a legal framework on managing the marine protected area system.
Yen said that the marine protection must be the job of the government, not of several ministries or branches, and the job of all people, not only some individuals.