Can the Diving Industry Promote Marine Conservation and Enhance Environmental Awareness? (Sal Island, Cape Verde Case)
Miguel Tiago Oliveira1, 2 , *, Karim Erzini1, Luís Bentes1, Miguel Neves Santos3, 4
1 Centre of Marine Sciences - CCMAR, University of the Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
2 Oceanário de Lisboa S.A., Esplanada D. Carlos I, 1990-005 Lisboa, Portugal
3 Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA), Avenida 5 de Outubro s/n, 8700-305 Olhão, Portugal
4 ICCAT Secretariat, Calle Corazón de Maria 8, 28002 Madrid, Spain
The growth in tourism in the Cape Verdean Sal Island has been a cause as well as a consequence of a number of investments (both by the State and the private entities) to create synergies for that sector, ensuring and promoting the island’s touristic attractiveness. Such increases in the number of visitors, allied with the island’s marine biodiversity - that make up much of its economic potential - have caused the growth of the diving industry, which has become one of the biggest attractions for tourists. In light of the scarcity of scientific studies on the impacts associated with this activity and means for diver engagement, the local diving operators have proposed the development of several tools.
An Underwater Species Identification Guide and four underwater routes were proposed for four popular scuba diving sites off Santa Maria Bay (Sal Island, Cape Verde): “Kwarcit”, “Sargo”, “Três Grutas” and “Tchuklassa”. To better understand how the diving industry could promote environmental education, conservation and enhance biodiversity awareness among divers, we also established the diver tourists’ profile using an online survey.
A total of 347 respondents, of which 85% have higher education, showed that 67% stay more than seven nights in Cape Verde. Moreover, natural reefs are the 1st dive site to be visited, while artificial reefs preference increases after a second dive on the man-made reefs. The majority would recommend the use of the Underwater Species Identification Guide and the underwater routes.
The results showed that divers strongly embrace the use of new tools for better understanding of diving site biodiversity and that the diving industry can play an important role in the enhancement of biodiversity awareness.
Keywords: Awareness, Environmental education, Sal Island (Cape Verde), Scuba diving, Underwater routes, Underwater species guide, Underwater tourism, Socio-economic and travel profile, Online surveys.
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* Address correspondence to this author at the Oceanário de Lisboa S.A., Esplanada D. Carlos I, 1990-005 Lisboa, Portugal; Tel: +351 218917084; E-mail: email@example.com