Editor’s note: The Blue Solutions initiative supports the exchange of successful approaches to marine and coastal conservation and development, sharing what worked where and why. Each case is authored by a practitioner and published on the Marine and Coastal Solutions portal of the PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet web platform. MPA News is drawing from these cases.

In 2009, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Hoi An on Vietnam’s central coast announced its intent to become a model eco-city for Vietnam by 2030. This meant the city would re-plan itself to operate in balance with nature. That same year (2009), UNESCO named Hoi An and the nearby Cham Islands Marine Protected Area (30 minutes by boat from Hoi An) as the combined Cu Lao Cham World Biosphere Reserve, with goals to improve the income of locals and to protect several depleted species, including the commercially valuable land crab Gecarcoidea lalandii.


The city of Hoi An experiences flooding each winter and regular typhoons. These exacerbate the area’s problem of coastal and riverbank erosion, which in turn is related to the removal of forests over time. Land crabs, already impacted by loss of habitat, were suffering from overharvest last decade, due to minimal management. Overfishing was also occurring.

How challenges were addressed

Risk assessments were conducted to evaluate the severity and frequency of impacts on the MPA and Hoi An. The MPA was zoned to prioritize areas for strict protection, tourism development, sustainable exploitation, and ecological restoration. As part of the restoration, mangrove reforestation and other measures were implemented to reduce coastal and river bank erosion in the area.

A Global Environment Facility grant in 2010 supported a project to implement community-based conservation and sustainable harvest of the land crab. A community management committee developed plans and regulations (harvest times, zones, and catch sizes); established a group of guards and catchers of land crabs; and developed rules for monitoring and marketing, including a labeling and certification program.

On the marine side, patrolling and enforcement of the MPA are now conducted cooperatively by Vietnam’s Border Guard, local police, and local stakeholders. 

A community-based ecotourism program has focused on developing home stay opportunities for tourists, providing a significant new income opportunity for local residents.

Evidence of success

Tourism in the area has risen substantially since designation of the MPA and broader Biosphere Reserve. In 2002 there were 1000 tourists in the Cham Islands; in 2013, there were 150,000. Some of the growth has been driven by increased desirability of the MPA’s land crabs, which are now allowed to grow to be larger with higher-quality flesh. The crab population has rebounded, as has its market price, which more than doubled in years following the management measures. Average income for Cham Islands residents has risen fourfold due to the improved market prices and the tourism income.

The community-based management program has demonstrated the power of thoughtful and sustained community participation in environmental decision-making. The Cham Islands MPA and Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve are among the most significant programs toward building resilience in Hoi An.

For more information on this case, please visit the PANORAMA web platform.