“Getbol,” or tidal flats, have been recognized as opportunities to reclaim an intermediate area between land and sea to widen the nation’s narrow territory, so their size has declined due to coastal development.
Figures released by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) showed that the size of the nation’s tidal flats stands at 2,482 sq. km, accounting for 2.5 percent of the country’s territory.
The figure is a far cry from 3,203 sq. km in 1987. Of late, the ecological significance and values of Korean tidal flats have been reillumined.
As Korean tidal flats were inscribed on UNESCO World Natural Heritage List on July 26, 2021, concerns for their preservation and restoration have been mounting.
Tidal flats, dubbed as “the kidneys of the Nature,” are a treasure of marine ecological resources in which 70 percent of coastal marine life habitats.
They have begun to be recognized as an important space with endless potential, such as the buffer zone of coast pollution and greenhouse gas emission reduction.
As awareness toward social and economic values of tidal flats has been spread, MOF implemented a pilot project to restore tidal flats in Suncheon, Sacheon and Gochang in 2021.
The initiative was based on a 2008 study of a mid- and long-term plan to restore tidal flats, but due to institutional unpreparedness and limitations, such efforts had ended up in restoring nine sites until 2016.
The Ministry has built a foundation to implement projects like the establishment of a comprehensive plan of restoring tidal flats into resources in 2015, guidelines of tidal flat ecosystem restoration project in 2016 and the establishment of the 1st master plan between 2021 and 2025 to manage and restore tidal flats in 2021.
Korea Marine Environment Management Corp. (KOEM) has supported MOF work out institutional frameworks. In 2018, KOEM conducted a fact-finding survey to evaluate the effectiveness of tidal flat restoration projects targeting Suncheon, Sacheon and Gochang, the targets of 2012 pilot project.
It was found to have improved the population of zoobenthos and the dispersion and deposition of pyrrophyta.
KOEM made efforts to prove the effectiveness of restoration projects, as shown by affirmative acceptance on the part of residents of the related areas.
Thanks to these efforts, projects to restore 11 sites has been implemented until 2020.
These have come to fruition, like the enforcement of the so-called Getbol Act in January 2020, which contains the ecological management of tidal flats by securing the feasibility of tidal flat projects, restoring of damaged tidal flats, supplying of fishery products through retaining of clean tidal flats and sustainable uses such as education, tourism and utilization on the tidal flat ecosystem.
As projects to restore the damaged tidal flats have been carried out in earnest following the enactment of the Act, 80 billion won in a budget on three project sites has been earmarked this year, and 4.5 sq. km in damaged tidal flats will be restored by 2025.
Types of projects have been expanded, reflecting diverse ecological environment and public needs.
In this context, KOEM has worked out management plans tailored to meet field needs and reflected local communities’ demand to raise their satisfaction in order to restore tidal flat ecosystems in Youbu-do, Seocheon, Gopa-do in Seosan, and Muchangpo in Boryeong without interruption.
Systematic management base of restoration projects, such as design standards of tidal flat restoration projects, have been built, and restoration projects have been implemented through regular consultations with cooperative firms and local governments, towards the prevention of safety accidents and the consideration of the characteristics of tidal flats.
As tidal flats’ value of absorbing carbon dioxide has been recognized recently, tidal flat restoration projects have been included in the “New Deal Marine Sector.”
KOEM plans to build and operate a statistical system designed to evaluate tidal flats’ capabilities of absorbing greenhouse gases starting 2022, based on a study on carbon dioxide absorption in 2017 in accordance with the government’s carbon neutrality policy in 2050 and manage it so that restoring tidal flats and building wetlands can be recognized as greenhouse gas emission reduction projects.
KOEM was designated as an institution evaluating national greenhouse gas emission information and statistics in the marine and fishery sector in 2017.
The organization aims to realize national mid- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by conducting a survey of the current status of coastal blue carbon and building its information system, as blue carbon technology development projects were selected as one of the top 10 technologies designed to cope with climate change in 2018.
In particular, KOEM is making every effort to help the ocean sector raise its capability of absorbing carbon dioxide through follow-up studies designed to restore tidal flats, expand the designation and management of marine protection zones, explore new absorbers and improve capabilities of coping with coastal climate change.