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Tourism a hindrance to marine ecology: study

not so serene:Various boating trips are organised from north Goa and south Goa.— Photo: Ishika Ramakrishna

not so serene:Various boating trips are organised from north Goa and south Goa.— Photo: Ishika Ramakrishna  

The failure of the State’s multiple agencies dealing with eco-system conservation, tourism and fisheries to have a coordinated initiative to regulate various marine activities off the Goan coast is threatening the rich bio-diversity and marine life in the State.

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India’s gap analysis study to assess the impact of marine tourism activities on the Grande island (Goa) archipelago and identify and assess the key threats from unsustainable marine tourism activities has pointed out all this.

Puja Mitra, State Programme Manager of WWF, India, said here on Tuesday that the study had been submitted to the State authorities. It articulates the detailed guidelines/strategies that need to be taken for the development of community-based marine tourism management .

“We are not saying you stop marine tourism activities, we only say develop guidelines and strategies for community-based sustainable marine tourism activities. Our project will also enhance the capacities of stakeholder communities for sustainable tourism,” said Ms. Mitra, talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a function here.

She said that local community engagement and support, science-based management and monitoring were essential components of successful marine conservation initiatives.

A range of anthropogenic and natural stressors currently affect the coastal habitat in the State. These have a severe impact on marine ecosystems, which support the majority of local livelihoods in the region, namely tourism and fisheries, the study says.

She pointed out that corals and associated life forms in the coastal waters around Grande Island, off the coast of Goa, form a significant marine ecosystem. Fishing boats use the waters around the island to wash and clean their fishing nets. Uncontrolled marine tourism activities, offshore garbage disposal, overfishing, untreated industrial and municipal effluents, discarded fishing nets, rampant coastal development and planned resurgence of mining activities have put this area at risk, largely due to ignorance and lack of regulation.

Pointing to yet another issue of concern, Ms. Mitra said that dolphins had been sighted on a regular basis in small numbers at the mouths of the Mandovi and Zuari estuaries and along the stretch between Vasco and Grande Island.

However, what is of concern is that the dolphin tour operators have been mindlessly operating in this area, posing a grave threat to the endangered species.

The failure of the State’s multiple agencies dealing with eco-system conservation, tourism and fisheries to have a coordinated initiative to regulate various marine activities off the Goan coast is threatening the rich bio-diversity and marine life in the State.

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India’s gap analysis study to assess the impact of marine tourism activities on the Grande island (Goa) archipelago and identify and assess the key threats from unsustainable marine tourism activities has pointed out all this.

Puja Mitra, State Programme Manager of WWF, India, said here on Tuesday that the study had been submitted to the State authorities. It articulates the detailed guidelines/strategies that need to be taken for the development of community-based marine tourism management .

“We are not saying you stop marine tourism activities, we only say develop guidelines and strategies for community-based sustainable marine tourism activities. Our project will also enhance the capacities of stakeholder communities for sustainable tourism,” said Ms. Mitra, talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a function here.

She said that local community engagement and support, science-based management and monitoring were essential components of successful marine conservation initiatives.

A range of anthropogenic and natural stressors currently affect the coastal habitat in the State. These have a severe impact on marine ecosystems, which support the majority of local livelihoods in the region, namely tourism and fisheries, the study says.

She pointed out that corals and associated life forms in the coastal waters around Grande Island, off the coast of Goa, form a significant marine ecosystem, which is frequented by tourists. Fishing boats use the waters around the island to wash and clean their fishing nets. Uncontrolled marine tourism activities, offshore garbage disposal, overfishing, untreated industrial and municipal effluents, discarded fishing nets, rampant coastal development and planned resurgence of mining activities have put this area at risk, largely due to ignorance and lack of regulation.

It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the marine habitats, such as those of Grande Island, are prioritised and studied in order to protect the ecosystem and the livelihood of communities that are dependent on them.

Pointing to yet another issue of concern, Ms. Mitra said that dolphins had been sighted on a regular basis in small numbers at the mouths of the Mandovi and Zuari estuaries and along the stretch between Vasco and Grande Island. The number of dolphins sighted in the recent past has been as many as ten individuals in a day. However, what was of concern was that the dolphin tour operators had been mindlessly operating in this area, posing a grave threat to the endangered species.

In Goa, dolphin trips are one of the main attractions offered in packaged holiday deals. These trips are successful crowd-pullers as tourists get an opportunity to see dolphins in their natural habitat.

Ms. Mitra says that various boating trips are organised from north Goa and south Goa to visit the Sinquerim Bay in the north-coastal belt, which is home to the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. When these dolphins come to the bay to feed, these boats (around 20 to 30 at a time) chase the animals so as to provide tourists the promised ‘dolphin viewing’.

Ms. Mitra said that Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are found around 3 to 4 km from the sea at a depth of 20 metres. Therefore, it is easy to find them near human habitat. This, in turn, poses a threat to their lives. Some of these boats play loud music leading to noise, hindering communication between dolphins. As they are constantly stalked during the tourist season, they find it difficult to search for food, to procreate, etc.

“As many as 40 dolphin tour-boat operators have been made aware, and we are trying to introduce eco-friendly practices in dolphin watching, but the problem still persists,” said Ms. Mitra.

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