Our location on the southern coast of Gam Island sees us situated in the heart of a Marine Protected Area, and an area also designated as a shark sanctuary. The establishment of these zones has been so far very successful in protecting the area, and aiding the recovery of those species impacted by unsustainable fishing practices during the 90s and 00s.
One of the most effective ways to maintain and sustain these existing conservation efforts is to identify and demonstrate their effectiveness; for example demonstrating ecological improvement, population recovery or increasing biomass within the marine protected area.
Our Megafauna Sightings Database successfully demonstrates this effectiveness by using the simple method of recruiting recreational divers as a sampling tool. During the high season, Papua Explorers Resort accommodates up to 30 guests at a time (plus dive guides and crew) diving 3 times a day in and around the Marine Park region. This represents a wonderful opportunity to collect valuable data; at the end of every dive guests are invited to record sightings of key species (incl 10 species of sharks and 13 species of rays). This data is then compiled into a database and compared against variables such as location, conditions, and tourism intensity (boats and people).
This simple and effective system of recording megafauna sightings after each dive enables us to:
- Demonstrate the effectiveness of the marine park/shark sanctuary, and the value of MPAs and ‘no take zones’.
- Directly link the effectiveness the MPA (i.e. number of sightings) to the main economy in the area – profit generated by dive tourism
The compiled data is then periodically presented to the local government and Marine Park authorities and serve as a tool to detect abnormal trends or identify areas and sites in needs of better management.
For instance, the first 10 months of data (1000 dives) could illustrate well the negative impact overcrowding could have on some of the main manta dive sites found in the region.