Sunday, August 17, 2008

Scuba divers have the right to ask

by Charles Roring
A well preserved underwater coral reef region is usually seen as a "gold mine" for people who live around the area. Scuba divers from around the world will visit the area to enjoy the natural beauty, fish, and colorful corals in it. Usually, authorities who manage the sea park will charge certain amount of money as entrance fee. The amount they collect depends on the number of tourists who visit the park.
Most of the tourists who want to scuba dive in a marine park show their willingness to pay the entrance fee if the money they pay goes directly to conservation projects of the coral reef and the surrounding environment. Unfortunately, these scuba divers only stay there for a short period of time, usually ranging from three days up to one week. When they have returned home, they cannot have access on information about the region anymore. The easiest way to find out how the entrance fee is spent or how the sea park is managed is by using the website, magazine or email.
Scuba divers or tourist can also ask the management board to support the villagers living near the marine park through several income generating projects. The increasing demand of ornamental fish for aquarium owners have triggered the use of poisonous or chemical substances for catching such fish in the coral reefs. In addition, oriental restaurants in big cities are willing to pay high price for grouper fish, abalone and other coral fish. These market demand will encourage fishermen to catch fish in the marine protected areas using bombs or chemical substances which will damage the coral reef environment. Management board can give the money in the form of credit or grant schemes to the fishermen so that they will be able to develop sustainable fish farm using aquaculture technology.
In certain cases, the management board can invite or hire marine experts that can provide consultation and guidance to those who are interested in developing sustainable fishing industry side by side the marine eco-tourism industry.
In recent years more and marine park management board have begun launching official websites which provide information about activities in the region. But many of the websites are not updated regularly. So, it is important for the tourists who have visited the park to ask the authorities to update their websites. Through these website, tourists can get information and in return can give suggestions to the management board, dive centers, or dive operators about ideas that are useful for supporting the conservation project or empowerment program of communities living in the region.
Furthermore, dive operators, government officials, ngos, and local communities who are involved in the management board of marine park have to be transparant in the use of fund or accumulated entrance fee they collected. Transparancy or openess both to the local community and to the tourists will become the vocal point for the sustainability of the eco tourism industry in the marine park. If your are interested in learning how a marine park is professionally managed, you can type two keywords Bunaken, Bonaire. These marine park are good examples for this matter.