The most recent estimate by the US Fulbright Foundation of the value of the coral reefs off Pingtung County’s Kenting Township (墾丁) put the figure at NT$4 billion (US$129 million), providing an incentive for Kenting National Park to boost its efforts to protect the ecosystem and maintain the quality of the water.
Conducted by the foundation researcher Nate Maynard, the study found that the reefs could be better protected by favoring sustainable tourism over fishing.
The transition to activities such as yachting or scuba diving would help boost environmental standards in the region and also work toward ecological sustainability, the research said.
At the Hengchun Peninsula’s coastal integration research project seminar, held at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, museum researcher Fan Tung-yun (樊同雲) said that the reefs of the western coast of the peninsula have seen healthy growth in recent years.
Fan said that the ecological system of the coastal reefs has also seen increasing diversity of marine life.
National Cheng Kung University assistant professor Chang Yi (張懿) said that satellite image monitoring of the region showed the water temperature had not seen a significant increase over the past two decades.
The concentration of chlorophyll coverage in the area has remained the same in the past decade, showing that the water is relatively unpolluted, Chang said.
Academia Sinica assistant researcher Lee Wei-liang (李威良) said that in comparison with other similar areas worldwide, the climate, water quality and coral reef ecology around the Hengchun Peninsula was stable and had not seen significant deterioration.
Following the jubilation generated by the foundation’s report, the Kenting National Park was upset to learn, from scuba divers in the area, that there were fishing nets near the Chuanfan Rocks.
According to national park officials, the divers had been in the area admiring a school of chubby plecos when they found two nets with trapped fish.
The national park said it would remove the nets and seek to find out who was responsible for the attempted poaching.