Wed, Apr 09, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Algal reefs to get ‘refuge’ status

PROTECTED ZONE:A coastal area in Taoyuan County which is home to the nation’s largest algal reefs will get protection as a wildlife refuge, the Forestry Bureau said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A 396-hectare coastal area where algal reefs are growing, between Guanyin (觀音) and Sinwu (新屋) in Taoyuan County, will be designated a wildlife refuge zone based on the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), which is to be officially enacted on Tuesday next week, the Forestry Bureau announced yesterday.

After several years of controversy over how to protect — and which government agency should be responsible for protecting — the nation’s largest patch of algal reefs, which is being threatened by the illegal discharge of industrial wastewater and, in recent years, the construction of a natural-gas pipeline project, the bureau finally announced that the area would be set aside as a wildlife refuge.

The bureau said the area is considered an important “river mouth and oceanic complex ecosystem,” in which high biodiversity was discovered during an ecological survey by the county government.

The survey found an animal density in the area about five times that of the Gaomei Wetland (高美濕地) and eight times that of the Siangshan Wetland (香山濕地).

Therefore, the bureau said it would designate the area a wildlife refuge in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Act, mainly to protect the river mouth algal reef oceanic ecosystem and its birds, plants and animals.

An area of 76 hectares inside the wildlife refuge is to be designated the “core area,” which will be under strict control and any changes or destruction to its natural condition will be prohibited, while two areas covering 101 hectares are to be declared a “buffer area,” in which activities such as beach cleanups, eco-photography, environmental education or eco-tourism can be allowed.

In addition, two areas covering a total of 219 hectares are to be declared a “sustainable usage area,” in which cultural, educational, research, economic and other activities based on maintaining the ecological balance can take place.

However, swimming, snorkeling and other water-based activities will be prohibited in the sustainable usage area.

As for a demand by some environmental protection groups and local activists to designate the area a “nature reserve,” based on the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法), the bureau said it would refer the case to the Council of Agriculture’s natural landscape review committee for discussion in a meeting scheduled for Thursday next week.

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