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September 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Too Many Divers in Raja Ampat?

how “Instagram Tourism” is ruining dive destinations

from the September, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Ten short years ago, we released the guidebook, Diving Indonesia's Raja Ampat. At that time, only 3,000 tourists visited the area annually, and the consensus among conservationists was that more were needed. Tourism brought much-needed media attention and money to the region -- economic development that was sustainable as well as directly beneficial to the local population -- as opposed to the previous focus on extractive activities, like mining and forestry. Tourists scattered throughout the region also functioned much like a police force, their sheer presence alone discouraging illegal activities, ranging from bomb fishing to shark-finning. Due to aggressive management and the creation of a system of Marine Protected Areas, fish biomass has increased dramatically during the past decade.

Tourists and nesting turtles on Coast Rica's Ostional Beach

Last year, tourism numbers exceeded 30,000, a tenfold increase in 10 years. Although these numbers hardly qualify as mass tourism, some of Raja Ampat's reefs are already under threat even with the current level of tourism. In 10 years' time, the threats to the reefs could be severe. Already visitors are complaining about trash, pollution and other environmental abuses, too many divers and liveaboards on specific sites, diver and snorkeler damage at popular locations . . . the list goes on....

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