Coral Reefs in the Coatal Waters of the South China Sea

Type Report
Title Coral Reefs in the Coatal Waters of the South China Sea
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Marine habitats in Cambodia play a very important role in the national economy and the balance of
regional and global environment ecosystems. Marine habitats include coral reefs, inundated forests
(mangrove forests), and seagrass. In Cambodia, these habitats primarily fall under the management
of the Department of Fisheries with Article 1 of the Fishery Law stating that "Fishery resources
comprise of live animal and vegetable reproduced itself and abided in the fishery domain", and that
the "Marine fishery domain extends from the coastline to the seaward border of the outer economic
zone of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea" (DoF, 1990). This coastal zone is 55,600sq. km and
includes 69 islands and 28.065sq. km of coral reefs (DoF, 2004). Administratively, the coastal zone
includes the two provinces of Koh Kong and Kampot, and the two municipalities of Sihanoukville and
From a functional perspective, Cambodia's coastal zone can be conceptualised as being made up of
two inter-related systems - ecological and socio-economic systems. The ecological system includes
the physical, chemical and biological environmental parameters that provide natural resources,
sequesters pollutants, and offers fundamental life-support functions (e.g. clean air and water) for
humans and other living organisms. The socio-economic system depends upon many functions and
products of complex ecological systems. Cambodia’s marine ecosystems are abundant in living
resources, but have limited capacity to provide fish, timber, coral reefs, seagrasses, clean water and
other goods and services to meet the demands of socio-economic development. Given that the
production capacity of the ecological systems is limited, it is not surprising that the final demands by
society, and new opportunities for multiple uses, are the source of increasing conflicts arising within
Cambodia's coastal zone.
Coral reefs, in particular, are critical habitats for a diverse range of resident and migratory species,
especially endangered and vulnerable species. The structure of a reef provides shelter and food for
many types of plants, fish and invertebrates (Nelson 1999). Many Cambodians are also reliant on
coral reefs for livelihood and nutrition, with much demand placed on the many commercially valuable
species dependent on these habitats. Additionally, these areas provide much potential for the
development of eco-tourism in the future. Until recently, little was known about the status of
Cambodia’s coral reefs due to minimal research and lack of monitoring in this region. However, our
knowledge is now increasing with studies carried out by the Danida funded project on Environmental
Coastal Zone Management in Cambodia implemented in the Provinces and Municipalities of Kep,
Sihanoukville, and Koh Kong Province (Nelson 1999), the National University of Singapore (Chou et
al. 2003), and through the UNEP/GEF South China Sea Project.

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