Although opportunities to sight dolphins and coral reefs attract several aqua adventure enthusiasts to Goa, concerns about notorious tourist activities and threats to marine ecosystems have prompted the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)India to team up with the forest department to monitor such activities.
Lack of regulation of the increasing number of boat trips, littering and other factors have been threatening the habitat of Schedule-I protected species, especially in the Aguada bay and at Grande Island.
“The scale at which this is happening is quite large. We want to propagate a sustainable way to conduct such tourist activities,” Devanshi Kasana, a senior programme officer at the World Wide Fund for NaturGoa, said.
In 2015, WWF had carried out a study to assess the stress inflicted by tourism on the state’s marine ecosystem. Findings revealed that there was primary stress on two speciesthe Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in the Aguada Bay and the coral reefs at Grande Island.
“Dolphins are social creatures. Excessive boat traffic disrupts their free movement,” Kasana said. Path-cutting, loud music, chasing dolphins for entertainment and littering in the ocean were also found to be creating a menace, while the main cause of damage to coral reefs was pinned on boats dropping anchor in the area.
The forest department has now been roped in to look out for such violations along the state’s coastline.
“We are working with the WWF to ensure balanced tourism at these sites (Aguada bay and Grande Island). Boat operators are willing to follow our advice, but tourists also have to be sensitized,” a forest officer told TOI.
The WWF has started capacity-building workshops for boat operators from Sinquerim, Miramar and Dona Paula. It has also drafted a set of guidelines for operators when they engage tourists for dolphin- and coral-sighting trips.
“We are currently monitoring dolphin tourism and are yet to venture into coral tourism. Soon, we will have a meeting with boat operators in order to implement the guidelines,” Kasana said.