UNESCO recognizes Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Islands as a World Natural Heritage Site

Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Archipelago contain with them global values for geological heritage and marine biodiversity, with typical tropical marine ecosystems: coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and especially lush evergreen primary forests growing on limestone islands. In 1994 and 2000, Ha Long Bay was recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site under criteria VII and VIII, while Cat Ba was classified as a National Scenic Site in 2012.

In 2013, a collective of scientists from the Institute of Marine Natural Resources and Environment, headed by Prof. Dr. Do Cong Hung, selected by Hai Phong People's Committee as a consultant together with departments of the city to develop a technical dossier to submit to UNESCO for recognition of Cat Ba Archipelago as a world natural heritage according to the world criteria on biodiversity and ecosystem (criteria ix and x). The technical dossier has been sent to the World Heritage Centre. Following the due diligence process, IUCN drafted Decision WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B for adoption by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th Session in Qatar in 2014, which recommended: "The State Party considers the possibility of proposing an extension to Ha Long Bay, in accordance with criteria (vii) and (viii) and possibly criterion (x), to include the Cat Ba Islands". Since then, the implementation of conservation activities, research and nomination dossiers for the world heritage site of Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Islands has been promoted.

The study and preparation of nomination dossiers for the World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Archipelago has been carried out by the consulting unit since 2016, after the Prime Minister agreed to allow Hai Phong city to preside over and coordinate with Quang Ninh province to develop a dossier to expand Ha Long Bay to Cat Ba Islands at the same time, assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to guide Hai Phong city to develop a dossier of the World Natural Heritage of Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Islands in accordance with the provisions of the law on cultural heritages and relevant regulations. The preparation of nomination dossiers faces many difficulties due to the need to prove the values of biodiversity (sea, terrestrial), global value, endemic value of the proposed area, ecological linkage of natural system areas, and proposal of effective conservation solutions and practices of inter-regional natural heritage areas (02 provinces). Through many consultation meetings, the drafting committee of the technical dossier received a lot of comments from UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, and domestic and foreign nature conservation organizations. With the spirit and responsibility of specialized agencies of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the determination of Hai Phong city, Quang Ninh province, the Vietnam National Committee for UNESCO, the dossier of proposal for the natural heritage of Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Archipelago has been amended, finalized according to the recommendations and ready to submit to the World Heritage Council for consideration and recognition in the first months of 2021.

The beauty of Hon Dua, Lan Ha Bay (Cat Ba Archipelago) (Photo by Nguyen Dac Ve)

On September 16, 2023, at its 45th session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the UNESCO World Heritage Council knocked the hammer through the nomination dossier, recognizing the Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Archipelago complex (in Quang Ninh province and Hai Phong city) as a World Natural Heritage Site.  This is the result of more than 10 years of continuous research, persistently completing the nomination technical dossier of the collective of scientists from the Institute of Marine Natural Resources and Environment, as well as the joint efforts of departments and departments in 02 localities, the close guidance of the People's Committee of Hai Phong city, the People's Committee of Quang Ninh province, the Ministry of Culture and Information, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, as well as the Government of Vietnam for the conservation and preservation of the values of biodiversity and natural resources of Ha Long – Cat Ba Island for present and future generations. This honor is a worthy reward for marine scientists who have worked closely with localities to solve the problem of balancing economic development with marine nature conservation. 

Prof. Dr. Do Cong Thung joins the delegation of the Government of Vietnam at the 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee taking place in Thyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from September 10, 2023 (Photo by Do Cong Thung)

There is still a lot of work to be done after the title of natural heritage of Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago is trusted and recognized by the world community. The preservation, conservation and promotion of heritage values are only successful when there is consensus of managers, communities, businesses and, tourists with a solid foundation of scientific knowledge. UNESCO's inter-provincial recognition of World Natural Heritage is a very valuable lesson in harmonizing the management, protection and promotion of the values of World Heritage Sites in particular, historical-cultural relics and scenic spots in general of the Northeast island waters as well as of Vietnam in similar conditions.


Translated by Phuong Ha
Link to Vietnamese version

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