Co-existence of Coral Reef Conservation and Tourism at Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon islands National Park (PINP) is one of the three Marine National Parks in Sri Lanka with coral reefs being the major habitat protected. A study was undertaken at PINP with the objective of understanding the challenges encountered and opportunities available for managing the park addressing both coral reef conservation and increasing tourism potential. Field visits, formal and informal group discussions, expert opinions, web based information and literature surveys were the methodology utilized.
Despise the impose of an entrance fee in May 2011, 146,375 tourists visited the 471 ha park within 40 month period indicating that one hectare of coral reefs can earn more revenue than larger terrestrial parks with charismatic species such as elephants. Foreign tourist arrivals had increased from 11.9% in 2011 to 25.13% by 2014. Visitor reviews indicates that their experience was either excellent (46%) or very good (30%) due to abundance of marine life, while12% had either a poor or a terrible visitor experience at the site owing to overcrowding, reef damage and high price.
With only 21% of live coral cover in 2013, it is evident that the reef is being degraded, indicating that a Protected Area which emphasizes on collecting user-fee revenues can lose sight of its primary conservation objectives and is not undertaking sustainable tourism. Park management effectiveness is not at desirable level (43%), mainly due to non- implementation of a scientifically based management plan. A continuous monitoring programme to check the health of the reef is need, while the introduction of a multi-tiered user fee structures can enhance the economic reruns. Incorporating PINP into wider Seascape/landscape management through utilizing Special Area Management approach needed to be promoted.
Key Words: Coral Reefs; Pigeon Island National Park; Management Effectiveness; Sustainable Tourism; Stakeholders
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