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Management Board Contradicts Reports of Ha Long Bay Being Desecrated

Amid reports that Ha Long Bay has been gradually desecrated over a long period of time, the management board justified that not all of the stories are true and that there is a natural explanation to them. Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage Site as acknowledged by UNESCO and one of the most famous tourist destinations all over the world.

According to the news, electric and dynamite fishing have been practiced over Ha Long Bay by not only a few but by thousands of boats. Local traditional fishermen are witness to this destructive activity themselves, seeing plenty of fishing boats with bundles of cords and ropes hanging from their sterns and attached with inverters with huge nets which gather the electrocuted fish. Between 1,500-2,000 watts of electricity is shot within a 20-metre radius, causing instant death to the sea animals and serious damage to the natural resources underwater.

Despite numerous reports filed by the traditional fishermen and authorities conducting investigations and imposing penalties on the violators, the problem is not nearly solved because there are far more illegal fishermen than the police can handle and the fines are too small that they can be paid right away. According to the local fishermen, there are several reasons why some of their comrades felt the need to resort to electro or dynamite fishing. Most fishing boats have no license numbers, therefore fishermen needed to catch fish at the fastest possible time. Natural resources in the area, especially during the winter season, are slowly depleting, thus the necessity to look for other ways to earn and eat, however illegal it may be. Perhaps most of all, electro and dynamite fishing produces five times more output than traditional fishing at less effort and time, thus the temptation to turn to this destructive activity.

The Ha Long Management Board is fully aware of its limitations and has been seeking heavier punishments since 2014, but the government itself has not approved such request, stating that “there cannot be separate regulations for each heritage site.” Thus, the dilemma continues between watching the problem of illegal fishing get worse, but not having the power to do anything about it.

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The media also reported that stalactites in numerous limestone caves at Ha Long have been sawed off and sold as decorations in non bo gardens (miniature landscapes) and aquariums. This has been happening not only recently but for the last decades. Cap La Cave, Trinh Nu Cave, Trong Cave and Tien Ong Cave have suffered such recklessness, some even vandalized with Chinese and Vietnamese characters written in permanent ink. Some caves were even turned into fancy restaurants with their natural structures cemented. The latter was publicly disapproved by many tourists which later led to their closure.

Authorities have also been aware of this plight and in fact executed tighter measures to ensure the safety of the caves, but so far have only been able to monitor the tourist spots which are nearer and more accessible and not the far-flung caves which are situated in dangerous cliffs. Thus, the latter are still very much prone to stalactite theft and destruction.

The management board of Ha Long Bay disputes some of these reports though, justifying that the vandalism story is untrue and that some of the stalactites fall off on their own as part of a “geological formation process” that has been going on for millions of years. The cave restaurants couldn’t be really called as such because cooking of any form was not done there. Instead, tourists came with food from the cruise ships where the cooking was actually done.

In order to preserve the stalactites, the Ha Long management board has implemented “moorings,” a process which holds the fragile structures in their natural place. It has also worked hand in hand with the local residents and businesses in keeping their eyes open for any suspected theft or vandalism and reporting to the proper authorities of such illegal acts.

Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage Site and should be preserved as well as enjoyed. The growing tourism in the area is a big factor in dissuading thieves and vandals from committing their crimes since there is a constant large number of people arriving, but this does not neglect the fact that stricter laws have to be implemented in guarding the place and punishing the offenders.

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