Indonesia: Gorontalo village finds profit in shark-watching tourism

Syamsul Huda M.Suhari Jakarta Post 25 Apr 16;

Botubarani, a village in the Bone Bolango regency, Gorontalo, has been getting more popular as a tourist destination in the province. Every day, the fishing village on Gorontalo's southern coast is crowded with domestic and foreign tourists come to watch the whale sharks in its waters.

Seven whale sharks have appeared in Botubarani waters in the last two years, generating economic benefits for locals. Housewives are selling cakes and snacks to visitors while house owners turn their yards into parking lots. At least 50 boats belonging to Botubarani villagers are ready to bring visitors around the waters to watch the whale sharks.

“Hopefully, the whale sharks can continue to be a blessing for all of us here,” Botubarani villager Risno Ismail told thejakartapost.com.

Risno, who is also a fisherman, has also rented his boat to visitors. The boat rental fee is only Rp 15,000 ( US$1.14 ) per person.

The Bone Bolango administration is now handling the management of the shark-watching tourism in Botubarani village. Earlier, the tourist attraction was left unmanaged. Many visitors used motorboats to go around the waters while others fed the tame whale sharks with whatever they had. Some visitors reportedly rode on the protected, endangered species in disregard of the the consequences. Recently, a male whale shark reportedly suffered 14 slash wounds. It was suspected it was struck by a boat propeller.

The Bone Bolango administration closed the tourist attraction for one week but it has re-opened for the public since April 17. All visitors are required to adhere to shark-watching rules.

Bone Bolango Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Agency head Sutrisno said the composing of the shark watching rules involved several involved parties, such as the Tourism Agency, researchers, diving organizations and residents.

He said the administration had determined a 10,000-square-meter area in the Botubarani waters to be the playing ground of the whale sharks.

Both visitors and local fishermen are not allowed to enter the whale sharks’ playing ground, which is located close to the shoreline and the fishing village. Only officers responsible for feeding the whale sharks are permitted to enter the zone. They feed the sharks with fresh shrimps and prawn heads three times a day – morning, noon and night.

The use of motorboats is also prohibited. Each diver must pay a diving fee of Rp 50,000, from which part of the fee will be put into the village fund. The Bone Bolango Police deploy a number of tourism police to safeguard the tourist attraction. Garbage bins have been placed in several locations to ensure the area stays clean.

Whaleshark Indonesia project leader Mahardhika Rizqi Himawan said the shark-watching tourism in Botubarani village should be regulated by one agency while at the same time, the wild side of the protected, endangered species must also be paid close attention to. ( ebf )

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