Dongsha Atoll National Park in the South China Sea hopes to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the park headquarters said over the weekend.
Based on the ecological diversity of the area around the atoll, the headquarters said it plans to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status for the 356,500-hectare national park.
The park includes Dongsha Island (東沙島), 12 nautical miles (22km) of territorial waters and 80,000 hectares of a protected atoll area that is the largest and the most intact in the west Pacific Ocean.
It contains 281 types of coral, 229 of which are scleractinia, or stony corals, that make up 81.5 percent of all stony corals within the territory of the Republic of China. The atoll, near the Dongsha Islands, or Pratas Islands, was named the country’s first oceanic national park and the seventh national park in 2007.
As of last year, it was host to about 236 species of birds, 10 species of crustaceans and numerous marine species, according to park administration.
Furthermore, the variety of the coral reefs in that area is ecologically important, particularly in light of the rapid disappearance of coral reefs worldwide, the park administration said.
About 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already disappeared because of multiple factors, including climate change, and another 30 percent will be gone in two to four decades, it said.
The headquarters said Dongsha park is engaged in various marine protection activities and global oceanic scientific research, which could help it to gain recognition soon as a heritage site.
Since its establishment as a national park, the area has not been open to tourism for ecological protection and restoration, the park administration said.
An evaluation will be carried out next year to determine whether the park is suitable for tourism, it added.
Meanwhile, at a four-day eco camp on Dongsha Island earlier this month, 23 Taiwanese students majoring in marine affairs, international relations and related fields were given the opportunity to observe the area’s ecosystem.
The camp was the start of a program organized by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of National Defense, the Marine National Park Headquarters and Greater Kaohsiung Marine Bureau to promote the government’s efforts to preserve the natural environment and reinforce the nation’s claim to the island.
Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim part or all of the archipelagos in the South China Sea.