Palau's Manta Ray Tourism Study
The Republic of Palau is recognized as one of the prime destinations for scuba diving, offering visitors the opportunity for spectacular encounters with marine animals. Sharks have long been the flagship species for Palau, however a “surprising” finding from the 2014 Palau Visitor Authority Survey shows that tourism focused on other species in Palau, specifically manta rays, is becoming increasingly popular. In 2013, it was estimated that manta ray watching tourism contributes US$ 6.8 million to the economy in Palau (O’Malley et al., 2013) and most of the manta watching tourism occurs at only one dive site: German Channel. Over the last five years the number of boats and divers at German Channel has increased dramatically and local operators have voiced the need for increased site management to ensure the safety and sustainability for this tourism.
The Manta Trust, an international organization dedicated towards research and conservation of manta rays and Columbia University New York have joined forces with the local Manta ID Palau project to conduct a study about the tourism activities at German Channel from January-April 2015 under the permit of Koror State. This study is sponsored by the Etpison Museum and the Manta ID Palau project to benefit all operators and stakeholders in Palau. The objective is to generate a clear understanding of the current size and impact of tourism activities at German Channel, including its site use and traffic, perceptions and experiences from tourists and dive professionals across Palau, to support the development of sustainable management practices for German Channel. This will ensure that the safety of tourists and sustainability of this important dive site are maintained for the future.
Isabel Ender, The Manta Trust Head of Conservation Strategy, and David Prieto, Master Student of Sustainability Management at Columbia University New York gave an introduction to Palau’s Manta Ray Tourism Study on Friday, 6th February. Koror State government, representatives from National Government, local research and conservation organisations and dive guides and operators, as well as dive tourists attended this event, which took place at Koror State Assembly Hall. Over the coming weeks the team will be interviewing tourists and dive operation staff across Koror State as well as survey the activities at German Channel and conduct presentations aboard liveaboard operators in Palau to generate a report with recommendations to Koror State based on the findings, suggestions from local operations, an evaluation of current rules that exist for diving at German Channel and their experience of working with manta ray tourism in other places, such as the Maldives and Yap where the Manta Trust also has projects. The final report will be made publicly available and presented to Koror State in June 2015.
To learn more about the local manta ray population, please visit www.mantaIDpalau.org. To find out more about the Manta Trust please visit www.mantatrust.org or contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this study.
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