Mola mola hunters given code of conduct

As home to the Mola mola, or Ocean sunfish, and other captivating sea dwellers, including manta rays, Nusa Penida’s waters are a favorite spot for divers from all over the world. Unfortunately, the more divers that visit the area, the greater the threat to the ecosystem, especially the Mola mola and manta rays. To prevent environmental damage in Nusa Penida waters, a code of conduct for all divers has been arranged by the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) in cooperation with the Klungkung administration and Indonesian Marine Tourism Association (Gahawisri).

“The code of conduct was arranged to protect the ecosystem, especially the Mola mola and manta rays that are the major attractions. It was initiated as many divers disturbed the Mola mola and manta rays when they saw them,” Marthen Welly, the CTC’s learning sites manager, told Bali Daily on Wednesday. The Mola mola, an elusive sunfish, is an especially popular sight in Nusa Penida. Every year, mostly from July until September, the fish swim near the surface to be cleansed by the smaller fish, which nibble off their dead skin and parasites.

Welly said that the annual appearance of the Mola mola in Nusa Penida, a tiny island off the southern coast of Bali, had caused overcrowding. “It is not easy to see Mola mola in other waters across the world. Moreover, divers can see around 20 Mola mola in Nusa Penida waters at the same time, something that never can be found in another area,” Welly said. “Unfortunately, many of the divers are too enthusiastic, chasing them, holding the fish to get a picture. This is really dangerous for the Mola mola as it will make them fearful and disturb their cleansing process,” Welly stated.

Due to the inconsiderate behavior of the divers, Welly said the Mola mola now tended to come no higher than a depth of 40 to 45 meters, while previously they would come to a depth of around 20 m. The code of conduct states divers are not allowed to get too close to the Mola mola, with a safe distance of around three meters when the fish are being cleaned, or around 10 m when they have not started the cleaning process. Divers are also prohibited from things such as touching and feeding the fish, swimming under or behind the fish, and using flash photography.

A special code of conduct has also been made for dive operators, who now have to control how many divers are in the water at one time to prevent overcrowding and stop the Mola mola being disturbed. The limit has been set at a maximum of five people, so the dive guide can control the guests. To prevent reef damage, operators are not allowed to anchor their boats closer than 200 m from the dive site. They have also been told to bring all their plastic trash back to the port and not to throw it into the ocean.

Welly said that the code of conduct has been promoted to all dive operators in Nusa Penida, where at least 12 of them also participated in creating the code of conduct. “As of now, we are implementing the code on a voluntary basis, to boost awareness,” he said. “In the future, dive operators violating the code of conduct could lose their operation permit,” Welly said. Previously, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry named Nusa Penida Water Conservation Area (KKP) one of the best such sites in Indonesia. Many programs have been conducted to protect the area.

source : bali daily

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