Environmentalists raised concerns that coral reefs near islands in southern Penghu County are at risk due to warming ocean waters and the tourism industry.
Near-shore waters off Penghu’s southern islands have been much warmer this year, which has caused coral bleaching, Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center fellow Chaolun Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said on Sunday last week.
On Dongyuping (東嶼坪) — one of the islands that comprise the South Penghu Marine National Park — corals are covered with sand, while other reefs have been damaged by tourism, he said.
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Coral bleaching — which has worsened this year due to fewer typhoons reducing the water temperature — has been detected near Dongjiyu (東吉嶼), Dongyu-pingyu (東嶼坪嶼) and Cimei (七美嶼) islets, he said.
Marine biologist Chen Chin-chuan (陳盡川) said that during a dive close to the marine park’s Siji Islet (西吉嶼), he saw that coral bleaching had spread there, too.
However, coral damaged by natural phenomena — such as a typhoon or heavy rainfall — can potentially recover, he said.
Sand that had been piled up near the port on Dongyupingyu for a public project was swept up by a storm and deposited on corals along the islet’s coast, covering them with a 20cm layer and likely killing them, Chen said.
Boats have been anchoring above corals so that tourists can easily find them while diving, he said, adding that this would harm the reefs.
The marine park headquarters has installed moorings throughout the park that allow boats to anchor near the reefs without damaging the corals, the park said.
Boat operators who engage in activities that could damage the corals would face fines of NT$3,000 per incident, in addition to the cost for coral reef recovery measures.
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