Nusa Penida, the island just a short distance off the eastern coast of is the seasonal home each year for the rare Mola Mola – a huge, docile sun fish that thrills divers and snorkelers who come to the island in the hope of an underwater encounter.
Adding to the attraction to scuba divers is Nusa Penida large population of manta rays.
The popularity of the waters off Nusa Penida with divers also forms a threat to the environment from the sheer number unsophisticated divers attracted to Nusa Penida who damage the local environment.
As reported by Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post), In an effort to prevent undue environmental damage, a code of conduct is now in place for divers at Nusa Penida. Organized by the Coral Triangle Center (CTC), the Klungkung regency and the Marine Tourism Association (Gahawisri)
the code protect the ecosystem, with special emphasis on marine life species such as the Mola Mola and Manta Rays.
The code’s introduction when it was realized that over-enthusiastic divers were disturbing the Mola Mola by attempting to hold or chase the timid fish for an underwater photo.
The Mola Mola visit the waters of Nusa Penida each year between July and September. Swimming near the surface the enormous fish are pursued by schools of much smaller fish that that consume and clean off the dead skin and parasites on the Mola Mola.
While Mola-Mola are rare in other parts of the world, lucky divers and snorkelers at Nusa Penida have been know to see as many as 20 of the huge fish during a single encounter,
Over-aggressive divers coming to Nusa Penida are blamed for the tendency of the Mola-Mola stay at deeper depths of 40 to 24 meters, when formerly they could be found at depths of 20 meters.
A new code of conduct in place stipulates divers must maintain a distance of 10 meters from the fish involved in the cleaning process. Divers are also prohibited from touching or feeding the fish. Flash photography of the fish is also not allowed.
Dive operators at Nusa Penida have agreed to rules on the maximum number of five divers allowed to enter the water at one time in a single location.
Dive boats are not allowed to anchor within 200 meters of a dive site and to bring all trash and refuse generated during a dive back to shore.
Compliance with the code is voluntary at this time, but plans are to require dive operators to follow rules under threat of losing their operating permits.
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