Monday, July 28, 2008

New Diving Sites should be introduced to visitors to reduce pressures on Bunaken Marine Park

by Charles Roring

The conservation of Bunaken Marine National Park has been the main objective of all stakeholders to create a sustainable eco tourism industry. This effort can only be done if there is a profesional management system doing the job with adequate logistical supports such as money, community development and participation, facilities, and specific laws and regulations.
Most Marine Protected Areas generate significant funding from the entrance fee levied from visitors (both domestic and international). The money is then used to finance activities intended to protect the park. Such activities are marine patrol against destructive fishing practices, deliberate littering of the park and ilegal fishing in the No Take Zone. Villagers living in the Bunaken Park territory have to be involved in the protection or conservation works and also be supported to generate income through sustainable business schemes.
So far, the number of bombings, poisoning of fish conducted by fishermen in Bunaken diving sites has been reduced to near zero. I can also see that some businessmen in North Sulawesi have entered such sustainable aqua culture production as sea grass cultivation, pearl farming and shrimp ponds. These businesses can absorb more workers and generate significant income for them.
In the beginning, the implementation of marine patrol was intended to protect the park from being destroyed by irresponsible people who had been practicing ilegal fishing techniques. It has to be the principle duty of the marine patrol and it should not become a secondary objective. Another additional task of marine patrol in Bunaken park is the supervision on visitors diving or snorkeling in the park on whether they have purchased the entrance tickets.
As a matter of fact, solid waste from the Manado city, flowing out from the rivers or drifting to the park, is the real threat to the coral reefs underwater environment. Therefore, local government must allocate large amount of provincial budget to process them. The money obtained from the entrance tickets is not enough to finance the project. But it can be used to launch public awareness campaign in the city telling the citizens not to throw garbages to the rivers. Public notice boards and advertisements placed in the newspapers and magazines will also inform the citizen about the negative impacts of marine pollution to the underwater environment of Bunaken coral reefs.
Certain dive sites around Bunaken islands receive more divers during high season period i.e. May - September. This raises concern over the reef carrying capacity. For the diving sites whose capacity have been exceeded, the disturbances from divers on the habitat will reduce the number of fish population, and influence the growth of the reefs. The management of Bunaken Marine National Park must implement and distribute diving quota to operators in order to lower pressures on certain coral reefs that have exceeded their carrying capacity. To minimize diver impacts, new diving sites such as Lembeh strait, Bentenan, and Bangka island should be introduced. Bentenan is located in the sourthern part of the province of North Sulawesi. Bentenan islets have coral reefs that are potential to be developed as another tourist destination in the province. Unfortunately, the roads connecting the Bentenan village to the city are still in poor condition. If the government are serious in developing these diving sites, good facilities have to be constructed in the Bentenan similar to what have seen in Bunaken National Marine Park.
Through the distribution of fair naumber diving quota to operators, and the development and introduction of new diving sites, the sustainable eco tourism industry in North Sulawesi will bring more benefits to local people as well as maintain the quality of underwater environment in its best condition.

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