Friday, July 25, 2008

Scuba Divers must observe standard rules to help protect the Bunaken national marine park

by Charles Roring
Bunaken is one of the most favorite diving sites in the world. It is located in the province of North Sulawesi near Manado city. It has very rich variety of marine species with more than 2,500 fish species and 70 genera of corals. There are five islands in Bunaken national marine park, Bunaken, Siladen, Manado Tua, Mantehage, and Nain with 25 world famous diving sites around these islands. Underwater marine bio diversity of this diving area is very high.

At least nine thousand divers dive in Bunaken national marine park every year. With the number of divers coming to see the coral reefs there tend to increase every year, efforts to protect the underwater environment are needed due to frequent damages or disturbances caused by tourist divers and their guides, and boat manuevers in shallow waters.
In general, tourism activities might create damages which can be categorised as follows:

- boat collision with reefs
- pulling or disturbance of propellers on shallow seagrass
- diver damage
- anchoring
- pollution from sewage,
- pollution from solid wastes
- pollution from sediments during the homestay construction
- increasing number of fishing activites in supplyng the tourists.
On the other hand, due to its closer location to Manado city, the Bunaken national marine park is facing more damages from:
- urban coastal development which is not related to tourism
- river flooding
- pollution from the city
- poison fishing for ornamental aquarium fish business
- and etc.
Therefore, the protection of the diving sites of Bunaken must include the citizens of Manado and other nearby towns, the government and tourism industries. All these stakeholders must cooperate in such activities as cleaning up programs, waste treatment and the implementation of existing laws that have been intended to protect the national marine park of Bunaken.
Divers both tourists and guides are the ones who are directly in contact with the coral reefs. To prevent more damages to these diving sites, standard rules for the protection of above and underwater environment must be observe:
- avoid capturing, collecting, harvesting, and or disturbing any living natural resources in the NO-TAKE zones which officially been protected including the plants, animals, fishes or other marine life.
- practice body control and buoyancy to keep safe distance from life corals and marine life.
- never stand or walk on living corals. In case of strong current, look for large rock.
- do not dispose of rubbish into the ocean or onto the ground.
- When finding drifted plastic bags or other waste materials that cover the corals, please take them up as your contribution in cleaning up these coral reefs.

Scuba Diving activities should be seen as sustainable tourism industry which will support the protection and conservation of marine life. By practicing environmental awareness during scuba diving and snorkeling activities, we will be able to maintain and preserve this wonderful environment for future generation.
Photos in this article are taken from Scott Gietler website