Fri, Jan 11, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Minister urges preservation efforts for Pratas coral reefs

By Huang Hsu-lei and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A closed giant clam lies in a coral reef off the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea on Wedneseday.

Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University

More emphasis should be placed on the preservation of coral reefs off the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said on Wednesday.

Hsu made the remark after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Marine National Park Headquarters and National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung.

The agreement aims to promote scientific research at the Dongsha Atoll Research Station, he said.

“We hope that the research will help Taiwan increase its knowledge of the sea and promote maritime culture, instead of simply promoting seafood culture,” Hsu said.

The coral reef near the islands is 200 to 4,000 years old, said station project director Keryea Soong (宋克義), who is also a professor at the university’s Department of Oceanography.

An adjacent seagrass bed is at least 80km2, more than 300 times the size of Taipei’s Daan Forest Park (大安森林公園), he said.

With the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the station has published about 50 scientific papers on the coral reef over the past five years, Soong said.

It is also the only sea zone in the nation where whiptail stingrays and sharks can be seen, he said, adding that the area is also home to Coenobita rugosus, a type of land hermit crab.

Coral whitening can be observed from civilian airliners flying overhead, he added.

While the coral reef is not currently open to the public, Hsu pledged to promote ecotourism to the atoll and to increase the use of green energy on the island that houses the station.

That would be a great opportunity for Taiwan to give to the world, as the South China Sea is the “sentinel post” for seawater acidification, station researchers said.

Due to the rising acidification of seawater, the station might see an increase in visiting researchers, they said.

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