By Mike de la Rama
LEGAZPI (8-Jan-2013/PNA) – Scuba divers in the province of Albay have identified 16 dive sites in Albay Gulf and parts of Legazpi City’s coastal areas which are now being promoted as a tourist attraction here.
Romeo Dawal Jr., Albay provincial consultant for marine eco-tourism, said that in Legazpi City area alone, six dive sites have been identified while 10 others are found in Cagraray Pass, located within the territorial waters of Albay Gulf at the eastern seaboard of the province.
According to him, Pacific Blue, an organization of professional scuba divers commissioned by the provincial government under the Albay Millennium Development Goals Office, conducted a rapid marine assessment survey that revealed that the 16 dive sites do not have strong currents or current at all.
The tourism development program here is a component project under the Cagraray, Rapu-Rapu, Batan and San Miguel or CRABS area of the provincial government.
Dawal said that part of the promotion covers capacity building of local communities through a divers’ training course for open water and corral gardening.
Dawal said a community training will be held this year to develop skilled divers from local communities.
“Skilled community-based divers will be deputized as dive guides and protect the coral and fish sanctuaries,” he added.
Aside from promoting the dive sites, coral communities have been identified in these areas.
Dawal said part of the sustainability is the coral gardening program to develop low-tech, cost-effective systems for growing and transplanting corals to restore degraded reefs.
“We are creating a fully aware community that will be working to save these critical species from extinction by developing healthy, localized reef patches with capacity for successful regeneration,” he said.
The coral gardening approach combines strategies for sustainable management of marine ecosystems with restoration of coral reefs and associated habitats where appropriate.
In this approach, nurseries are established by trimming coral fragments from existing wild populations then securing them on underwater structures.
The original coral is grown over a number of years and trimmed or propagated every 9–12 months, increasing the original fragments by 10 times.
“The idea is simple: the best way to save reefs is carefully managed human impact and interaction with reefs, and let local people who know the reefs best take ownership of the cultivation of the flora and fauna, ‘planting’ missing key species of coral–fish or shellfish–to ensure the reef’s survival as an ecosystem,” Dawal stressed. (PNA)