23 Oct Developing Elasmobranch and Cetacean Tourism Guidelines in Indonesia

With their unique appearance and behaviors, charismatic marine megafauna such as sharks, manta rays and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are interesting to watch. However, if not done carefully, this kind of marine tourism can create stress for these animals and even kill them. Therefore, tourists and tour operators must implement a code of conduct with strong scientific basis to minimize harm.

To address this challenge, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program – Coral Triangle Initiative (COREMAP-CTI) project held a National Meeting for the Development of Shark, Manta Ray and Cetacean Tourism Guidelines on October 21-23 in Bali. The main objective of this activity was to formulate a code of conduct of elasmobranch and cetacean tourism in Indonesia.

CTC was one of the resource persons in the event that was organised by Reef Check Foundation in collaboration with National Marine Conservation Office (BKKPN) Kupang and the Regional Office for Marine and Coastal Resources Management (BPSPL) Denpasar, as well as other NGOs alongside diving operators and cetacean experts. The meeting participants also joined two parallel field activities: the observation of elasmobranch tourism in the Nusa Penida marine protected area (MPA) and cetacean tourism in Lovina, North Bali.

CTC shared its experience in developing code of conducts for cetacean and marine animal tourism in the Nusa Penida MPA. CTC recommended a minimum distance of five meters for marine megafauna observation, such as sunfish and manta rays. However, subject to the existing water turbidity level, divers can move closer and view the animals from a distance of three meters for better visibility.  Any special condition like this will be assessed and supervised carefully by dive operators.

On the other hand, CTC also suggested any snorkeling and swimming activities within the manta ray cleaning station in the Nusa Penida MPA. All boats must also be placed at a minimum distance of 30 meters from the cleaning station for a safer dive entry. In addition an underwater sign marker must be placed between five to ten meters from the cleaning station, so that the boundary is clear but the sign does not not disturb the biota.

“We also recommend involving tourism or dive operators in the upcoming workshop and discussion, especially those who run shark, ray, sunfish and cetacean tourism activities,” said Wira Sanjaya, CTC Nusa Penida MPA Project Leader, during the meeting.

Other participants also gave their suggestions for keeping cetacean tourism safe. These suggestions included ensuring the observation boat to maintain a caution zone of minimum 100 meters from individual whales or dolphins, and establishing a “no approach zone” of at least 300 meters from cetaceans spotted nursing. Once finalized, the code of conduct document will be disseminated nation-wide. Hopefully, this document can assist all marine tourism destinations in Indonesia in developing responsible community-based elasmobranch and cetacean tourism rules.

Photos by CTC and Reefcheck Indonesia

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