Taiwan may be an island, surrounded by sea, but a recent survey has shown that people in the nation fared poorly in their knowledge of the oceanic environment.
The survey, carried out by Taiwan Environmental Info Association (TEIA), asked 600 fifth and sixth-graders and some adults about their understanding of Taiwan’s maritime landscape. Results showed that less than 50 percent of respondents knew that the country’s coastline is 1,600km long and only 43 percent could accurately name Fugueijiao (富貴角) as the northernmost end of Taiwan.
Meanwhile, only 48 percent knew that the nation’s largest lagoon is located in Cigu District (七股) in Greater Tainan.
While the heavily polluted algal reef in Taoyuan County’s Guanyin Township (觀音) has garnered much media attention recently, 75 percent of the respondents did not know it was the nation’s largest algal reef, and about 40 percent thought it was in Taitung County.
The survey also found that 70 percent of respondents did not know that Dongsha Atoll National Park is the nation’s only marine national park. While 95 percent of the respondents said they like the sea, 50 percent of them reported that they do not go to the beach regularly.
With yesterday marking World Oceans Day, TEIA secretary-general, Chen Juei-ping (陳瑞賓), said the survey findings showed that there was an urgency to reinforce education about Taiwan’s marine environment.
“Most people’s understanding of the sea is still limited to eating seafood and playing water sports,” he said. “If people fail to possess even a basic knowledge of the ocean, the nation will lose the opportunity to react in time to the challenges brought about by climate change.”
As part of its efforts to educate the public about the sea environment, TEIA and Standard Chartered Bank have started a project to draw a map of the country’s coastline biodiversity, which is scheduled to be finished in January next year.
TEIA Environmental Trust Center director Sun Hsiu-ju (孫秀如) said all the information they gather will be put online and will be available to the public free of charge.
Taiwan’s first coastline map was drawn up by Dutch explorers in 1636 in which they delineated the shoal and the inter-tidal zone along the nation’s west coast near Dacheng (大城), Changhua County.
“From the [Dutch] maps, we can see that Taiwan is getting ‘skinnier’ because of coastline erosion and subsidence,” Sun said.
In related developments, the Fisheries Agency announced yesterday that the nation now has three levels of sea protection zones. For Type I zones, access is granted only to scientists and government officials charged with monitoring and restoring the environment and they are not allowed to damage the area’s eco-systems in any way.
Those entering Type II zones are banned from engaging in developing any of the natural or cultural resources and in Type III zones only limited development is permitted, which must be conducted under the principle of sustainable development, it said.