6.1 Zonation according to use and objectives
6.2 Gazettement of a State Park
6.3 Increasing carrying capacity
6.4 Implementation of a marine education and awareness programme
6.5 Enforcement of Marine Park regulations
6.6 Limiting visitor use
6.7 Establishing monitoring and evaluation programmes
Christaller (1963) first conceived the concept that tourist areas follow a relatively consistent process of evolution, from discovery, to growth, to decline. Butler (1980) expounds the concept further by using an S-shaped curve to illustrate an area's cycle of evolution (Fig. 6.1). The stages a tourist area passes through are exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation and decline.
FIG. 6.1: THE TOURISM LIFECYCLE CURVE
A, B, C, D and E are possible pathways following stagnation that may be taken, depending on whether rejuvenation or decline occurs, and the rates they occur at.
If a policy is established early in the tourism lifecycle, it may be possible that the area may never reach the decline stage. Steps have to be taken in order to maintain a desired position or to improve upon an unacceptable one. Based on the visitor number records of Pulau Payar Marine Park (Fig. 4.1), it is currently at the development stage. Management to control tourism development is thus important now, along with proactive measures to address environmental problems.
Management responses to unacceptable or crowded conditions in recreation settings may include an array of actions that do not involve use limitations. Clearly stated management objectives are essential and the emphasis on management needs to be on the outputs, that is the experiential and environmental conditions desired, rather than on inputs such as use levels (Watson 1988). It must be realised that it is not only the numbers of people that affect the environment, but that their behaviour also contributes to problems.
Thus, possible management responses to perceived crowding include the redistribution of spatial and temporal use patterns, better design of use systems and facilities, more emphasis on maintaining environmental quality, fostering higher rates of compliance with rules and regulations, providing users with a greater basis for choice, eliminating motorcraft and all unnecessary structures, and zoning to alleviate resource damage (Stankey, 1973; Manning, 1985; Becker et al, 1984).
Coupled with the emphasis on conservation of the marine resources of the Pulau Payar group of islands, the following management options are discussed with respect to the Marine Park. It must also be borne in mind that the specific needs of Pulau Payar Marine Park must be taken into account and integrated with the overall planning and management of Pulau Langkawi.
In Malaysia, the main criteria for selecting and identifying sites as Marine Parks are that they must have unique marine ecosystems of significance, with a rich diversity of natural resources which are in relatively good condition and not materially altered by human exploitation (Ch'ng, 1990). The other criteria include aesthetic value and potential for recreation and tourism; this is important to safeguard and increase local economies. Hence a Marine Park is a multi-use protected area whereby conservation and tourism are prime objectives, and the two must be reconciled and managed accordingly.
The zonation of Marine Parks is a viable and effective management procedure whereby different zones within a Park define what uses are limited, to what extent, and by what means (White, 1988). Zonation is especially effective for multi-use areas like Marine Parks and is a recommended Ecotourism guideline for Marine Parks, as stated in the National Ecotourism Plan (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia 1996). By providing for a gradation of restriction, a zoned management scheme is easier to establish and police, since it can satisfy the requirements of a range of resource uses (White, 1988). Zonation also renders protection from damaging activities to sensitive habitats, confines intensive use to sites that can sustain it, and separates incompatible activities (Ch'ng, 1990). Recreation and tourism areas can be confined to specific zones, and if properly designed and controlled, can be significant assets to the Marine Park by facilitating education, providing cultural exchange and generating revenue (White, 1988). Zones can also be used to limit a certain number of people in a particular area so that adverse impacts from their activities are minimised or avoided. In addition, clear and specific management objectives or targets for each zone can be set to ensure systematic management (Wong, 1996).
Special functions of zones may include (Ch'ng, 1990):
· selective control of activities at different sites, including strict protection and various levels of use
· creating sanctuaries for core conservation areas
· separation of incompatible recreational activities to increase the enjoyment and safety of different pursuits
· setting aside damaged areas to enable recuperation
· protecting breeding populations of fishes and other organisms for the natural replenishment of overfished areas nearby
· buffering core zones to protect them further from adverse impacts of damaging activities
· periodically closing an area from human presence e.g. during the breeding season of a particular animal
The following zones have been identified for Marine Parks in Malaysia and may be designated (Ch'ng, 1990):
· Core Zone - covers all coral reef areas, within which activities are controlled and strict protection prevails. No collecting or fishing is allowed, and access is limited
· Buffer Zone - established around core zones; only traditional fishing activities allowed
· Reserve Zone - no human activities whatsoever allowed in order to maintain undamaged wilderness areas for the retention of a gene pool
· Scientific or Research Zone - ecologically sound research allowed
· Preservation Zone - damaged reef areas closed to activities to allow regeneration
· Recreational Zone - controlled recreational activities allowed
Pulau Payar Marine Park, although small, can still be zoned according to activities. Almost all the tour operators have agreed that planning through zonation and the provision of buffer zones are important toward the protection of the Marine Park (Wong, 1996). With the establishment of specific zones for Pulau Payar Marine Park, it would be easier to limit visitor activities and numbers according to the respective zones.
All the reefs around the Marine Park should be in a Core Zone, with appropriate Buffer Zones established around them. Dive sites and snorkelling reefs would fall under Recreational Zones; furthermore, the Marine Park Centre House Reef and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef should be designated specifically for snorkelling and introductory diving. Reserve Zones can also be established for the Marine Park, for example, the eastern facing side of Pulau Payar which is very rarely used by dive operators and is still in good health, as attested to by the control site. Scientific or Research Zones can be identified as and when needed, as can be Preservation Zones. All these zones will have to be continually monitored and evaluated as their designations may change over time depending on reef health and condition.
Although the gazettement of the 38 islands as Marine Parks is an important step towards protecting marine resources, in Peninsular Malaysia, this applies to offshore waters surrounding Marine Park islands only. According to the Establishment of Marine Parks Malaysia Order 1994, "the limit of any area or part of an area established as a marine park shall be at a distance of two nautical miles seaward from the outermost points of the islands specified as measured at low water mark". Thus, the Department of Fisheries Malaysia does not have jurisdiction over the land on islands, as land matters are constitutionally under the respective State governments. This has lead to conflict and problems in Marine Park island management as any development that occurs on land is not required to comply with any Marine Park regulations or management plan (Aikanathan & Wong, 1994).
As most pollution threats to the marine environment are from land-based sources, it is critical that holistic and integrated approaches in management be taken. The concept of island ecosystem management (Ch'ng, 1990) which advocates the management of the marine habitat, coastline features and terrestrial habitats as a single unit is thus useful. Both Federal and State governments have recognised the need for management of Marine Park islands as one integrated system. In order to facilitate implementation, it is recommended that unalienated land, i.e. State land, on islands adjacent to Marine Parks be established as State Parks under a State Enactment (Ch'ng, 1990).
Since the four islands of the Pulau Payar Marine Park are small, and there are no inhabitants or tourist accommodation present, it would be feasible to gazette the islands in their entirety as State Parks. This positive step would enable better and more integrated management of the Pulau Payar Marine Park.
The Kedah State government is in the process of enacting legislation for the establishment of a State Parks Corporation which would be responsible for managing State Parks in Kedah for conservation purposes. There is provision in the enactment for the establishment of State Parks on islands surrounded by Marine Parks. In such cases, the State Parks Corporation can, with the approval of the State Authorities, delegate powers to the Director-General of the Department of Fisheries Malaysia to manage the State Park. Section 3(5) of the draft State Parks Corporation Enactment (Kedah) 1996 states that "For the purpose of the management and administration of National Parks that are surrounded by Marine Parks the Corporation may with the approval of the State Authorities delegate its powers to the Director-General of Fisheries responsible for Marine Parks established under the Fisheries Act 1985 to control and administer". This legislation will need to be tabled at the State Legislative Assembly before it can come into force. To date however, this has not been done yet.
Nevertheless, the Kedah State government seems sincere in wanting to gazette the Pulau Payar group of islands as a State Park and handing over the management of the land to the Department of Fisheries Malaysia. Furthermore, the legislation lays down restrictions and conditions for development activities such as the construction of accommodation facilities. It is the intention of the Kedah State government not to allow any future development (in terms of accommodation and recreation facilities) at Pulau Payar other than what is already present at the Marine Park Centre. Thus, the status of the islands themselves as protected areas would better lend weight to the commitment to protect Pulau Payar Marine Park and its resources. Inappropriate tourism development activities would not be permitted, and by virtue of handing over the management of the State Park to the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, more holistic and integrated management of the Marine Park can be pursued.
However, the legislation does not spell out to what extent State Park status can meet the needs for land-based pollution problems such as sewage. Thus, these issues must be addressed jointly by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia and the Kedah State government; both agencies must play a part in ameliorating the sewage disposal problem, both in terms of finances and commitment. In addition, it must be realised that activities further afield, such as in Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang and the mainland may also adversely affect the coral reefs of Pulau Payar Marine Park. This necessitates integrated planning between Federal and State governments.
6.3.1 Increasing reef carrying capacity
6.3.2 Increasing tourism carrying capacity
The carrying capacity of a reef does not necessarily always have to remain the same; it can be lowered with increased use and abuse, alternatively it can actually be raised in a number of ways (see Salm, 1986). However, it is stressed here that increasing reef carrying capacity does not imply taking steps to increase the numbers of reef users; instead increasing reef carrying capacity means taking appropriate management actions that will ensure that minimal degradation to the coral reefs occur despite them being exploited as a tourist attraction. The following options are management actions that may be considered. Throughout all this, the continual monitoring of reef conditions relative to available baseline information is essential.
Increasing public awareness through education, using a number of techniques: guidebooks (possibly underwater guidebooks or fish/coral field charts), conservation articles in the media, television documentaries, and placing increasing importance on reef conservation in diving courses. Specifically crucial at Pulau Payar Marine Park would be a marine education and awareness programme that targets the snorkellers. (See Section 6.4).
Regulating reef activities with laws banning certain activities such as spear-fishing, commercial fishing, anchoring, souvenir collection and aquarium fish collection. Marine Park regulations already exist, as afforded under the powers of the Fisheries Act 1985. Unfortunately, enforcement of laws is particularly difficult in the marine situation; there has to be a certain amount of co-operation with the tourist industry which is often reluctant to accept responsibility. Penalties can be levied on boat operators if their clients do not comply with the laws. Careless reef users should be warned of the damage they are causing to the reef and fined if necessary. (See Section 6.5).
Zonation of certain reef areas is a powerful tool for increasing carrying capacity, possibly with exclusion zones to protect vulnerable coral communities or threatened marine life species. (See Section 6.1).
Laying moorings at popular reefs to reduce anchor damage improves access thus improving the physical carrying capacity at the reef. However improving access can reduce social carrying capacity and stretch the ecological carrying capacity, thus a balance is required so that the overall carrying capacity is not exceeded. In addition, increasing the number of mooring buoys at the more tolerant reefs relieves the pressure on the more fragile sites.
Creating alternatives to snorkelling and diving such as the glass-bottomed boat rides operating from the Langkawi Coral Pontoon relieves some of the physical pressure on the reefs. These tours open up the coral reefs to tourists, many of whom may never have seen them before and they can act as educational aids as well as entertainment. Many of the snorkelling tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park cannot swim and their potential for reef damage is high; a glass-bottomed boat ride is thus an alternative for them - "dry snorkelling"!
Artificial reefs such as wrecked ships, aircraft, vehicles, barges or piles of tyres and concrete structures provide a substrate for reef organisms to grow on, shelter for fish and most importantly interesting alternatives that will relieve the environmental pressure on the natural reefs. If placed in strategic positions e.g. close to heavily dived reefs or in challenging situations, artificial reefs (in particular ship/aircraft and vehicle wrecks) can be very popular, often as popular as the natural reefs themselves. The wrecks at Pulau Kaca are already a popular dive site, and should be promoted further among the divers that come to Pulau Payar Marine Park.
Similarly, increasing tourism carrying capacity does not mean increasing visitor numbers to Pulau Payar Marine Park. In light of the extremely high visitor numbers the Marine Park is already receiving and the high rate of increase in visitor numbers over the last seven years (5000%), increasing visitor numbers will only lead to reef degradation, visitor dissatisfaction and a saturation of facilities. In fact, the current high levels of visitation already mean that negative impacts are occurring on the marine environment of Pulau Payar Marine Park. Thus, increasing tourism carrying capacity implies that appropriate management actions should be taken to manage the existing levels of visitation and limit visitor use such that the marine environment is not degraded, visitor satisfaction is met and adequate facilities are provided.
There is not much scope for increasing physical carrying capacity at Pulau Payar Marine Park given the limited space on the island. In fact, this is not a desirable option as the area is already crowded and the reefs under pressure from visitor activities. It is recommended that no accommodation facilities for tourists be built on Pulau Payar (Aikanathan & Wong, 1996). This is supported by a recent study on Pulau Payar Marine Park which found that Marine Park managers and tour operators were unanimous in their agreement that stricter controls on development projects in the Marine Park are essential for protecting the marine environment (Wong, 1996). Both parties were not in favour of more developed facilities such as chalets or a restaurant, but felt that more toilets were necessary. Thus, the best option would be to upgrade and improve existing facilities rather than building new unnecessary facilities.
The new broadwalk will connect the beach at the Marine Park Centre with the beach in front of the Langkawi Coral Pontoon. This would allow some visitor dispersion and alleviate crowding slightly. Simple facilities could be added to this beach, for example, shelters and waste bins; however, the effectiveness of this alternative in dispersing visitor pressure should be weighed against any potential negative impacts on the marine environment.
Physical carrying capacity can be increased for aspects that are desirable, such as by improving transportation services, having a safe jetty and providing mooring buoys at the appropriate reefs. Particularly crucial to Pulau Payar Marine Park would be the implementation of adequate sewage and solid waste disposal facilities. The upgrading of such facilities increases the carrying capacity of the island, without bringing subsequent detrimental effects. Furthermore, more toilet facilities are needed, and should be provided while ensuring that sewage disposal facilities are adequate and efficient. Of the visitors surveyed, 64.16% found the toilet facilities at the Marine Park Centre to be inadequate. This is supported by a study that shows that tour operators feel that existing toilets are inadequate to extremely inadequate (Wong, 1996).
The existing nature trails (Plate 7) on the island can be further promoted as they are currently under-utilised; only 16.46% of tourists interviewed had walked the existing trails. These will allow some dispersion of activities and alleviation of pressure on the reefs. The trails would be particularly attractive to non-reef users. 54.55% of tour operators and 57.07% of tourists interviewed indicated that this would be a desirable future activity in the Marine Park. These trails will however need to be well signposted and should contain interpretative information. Other alternative activities to diving and snorkelling such as glass-bottomed boat rides could be explored; Langkawi Coral already operates such rides for their customers and the Department of Fisheries is thinking of introducing similar rides at the Marine Park Centre.
PLATE 7: ONE OF THE TWO EXISTING NATURE TRAILS ON PULAU PAYAR
Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim
Other alternative islands around Pulau Langkawi can also be promoted to disperse pressure on Pulau Payar Marine Park. The marketing of islands such as Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Singa and Pulau Beras Basah, which are already tourist attractions, should be targeted at visitors who are not so interested in going snorkelling in coral reef areas, as these areas do not have coral reefs comparable to Pulau Payar Marine Park. The promotion of other islands in the Pulau Langkawi group with good reefs would also complement Pulau Payar Marine Park; these islands should be identified and the feasibility of directing visitors there studied.
Social carrying capacity can be increased by ensuring visitor satisfaction is met and properly addressing any complaints raised. The implementation of a marine education and awareness programme is essential (see Section 6.4), and the Information Centre needs to be utilised more. Dialogue with the tour and dive operators also need to be held regularly, to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions, suggestions and grievances.
6.4.1 Training of Marine Park managers, tour operators and dive operators
Frost & McCool (1988) argue the case for education as an effective management tool, stating that "If the visitor understands the rationale for the regulation, there may be more understanding of the regulation and consequently, more voluntary compliance with it... Thus perceptions of the adequacy of information seemed to be a factor in the acceptance of restrictions... With a good rationale and careful explanation of the rationale, visitor regulation, at least in some places, may enhance recreational experiences". In addition, good interpretation enhances visitor experience, gives greater satisfaction and ultimately a better reputation to the area (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia, 1996). Coral reefs in particular have immense popular appeal which should be exploited for conservation purposes.
A recent study has shown that tour operators who bring visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park feel that the information requited for instilling awareness about the Marine Park is inadequate (Wong, 1996). This is supported by the results of the land-based survey of this study which showed that more than half the visitors interviewed (51.35%) were not aware that Pulau Payar is a Marine Park. In addition, most visitors surveyed felt that information regarding Marine Park status (57.64%) and information on the marine environment (66.93%) was lacking.
The Pulau Payar Marine Park Centre should be the focus of a comprehensive education and awareness programme that can reach all nationalities. A visit to the Marine Park Information Centre should be made compulsory itinerary for all tour and dive groups. At the moment, the Information Centre is terribly under-utilised, and more efforts should be made to attract visitors to enter it. Interpretation should not only comprise information on the marine environment and marine life found in the area, but should also communicate Marine Park policies and management objectives to visitors (Wong, 1996). A pre-departure programme is also necessary to educate visitors to consider the effects of their visit in advance and to prepare them to minimise their negative impacts (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia, 1996). This should initially concentrate in Pulau Langkawi, and should ultimately include Pulau Pinang and Kuala Kedah.
There also needs to be an expansion and improvement of the interpretation materials used, employing a variety of methods. Brochures, posters and information boards should be multi-lingual, taking into consideration the major nationalities that visit Pulau Payar Marine Park. The new jetty and broadwalk offer more opportunities for putting up information boards, as the Information Centre is quite small, and the Department of Fisheries does have plans to utilise this new area for such purposes. Audio-visual aids, for example videos and slide shows, should be run at regular intervals for the benefit of visitors to the Marine Park. This would be possible once the new generator is in use. Videos could also be screened at the Kuah jetty in Pulau Langkawi for visitors to watch prior to departure for the Marine Park. Other techniques include brochures and leaflets, checklists and identification keys. In addition, a code of practice should be formulated for activities like swimming, snorkelling, diving and fish feeding (Wong, 1996). This must be effectively communicated to visitors to ensure that they are aware of the negative consequences of their activities and to foster more responsibility towards the surrounding marine environment.
Since the Langkawi Coral Pontoon lacks any sort of Marine Park presence, the pontoon operators must also play their part in creating awareness amongst their guests. In this respect, they have gone some way, by putting up signboards on the pontoon, showing videos during the catamaran trip from Pulau Langkawi to the pontoon and briefing guests before arrival at the Marine Park. The Marine Parks videos should be given to the Pontoon operators to be shown on board the catamaran before arrival at the Marine Park.
The Department of Fisheries Malaysia is currently dependent on the tour and dive operators (who are better able to overcome language barriers) to brief their guests on Marine Park regulations (Plate 8). The Marine Park staff themselves do not brief visitors but liaise with tour and dive operators in this aspect. Thus tour and dive operators are important middle men, and need to be the target of a marine education and awareness programme as well, so as to ensure that they communicate the right messages to visitors. It must be ensured that tour and dive operators do indeed brief visitors. The land-based survey results show that 64.81 % of those interviewed were briefed; this shows that not all tour and dive operators are conducting briefings. Visitors should be briefed on Marine Park regulations, environmental guidelines and proper behaviour (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia, 1996). Tour and dive operators should also share the responsibility of raising awareness amongst their guests. There is also a need for the Department of Fisheries Malaysia to work with tour and dive operators to foster greater interest in protecting Pulau Payar Marine Park, and to encourage self regulation among them.
PLATE 8: VISITORS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK BEING BRIEFED BY A TOUR/DIVE OPERATOR
Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim
Closer co-operation should be fostered between dive operators and Marine Park staff. On the whole, the diving industry is well aware of the necessity for improved reef management, and can be motivated into becoming a major force in reef conservation (Wells & Price, 1992). Regular meetings and dialogue sessions need to be conducted to ensure that communication between the two parties is not stifled. Dive operators need to be conversant with the role of Pulau Payar Marine Park, as well as its rules and regulations. The role of Dive Instructors and Dive Masters in promoting reef awareness and conservation cannot be overemphasised. They are in a pivotal position to influence divers, and should educate as well as personally supervise divers and snorkellers that are under them. Dive operators can also provide practical tips (e.g. proper buoyancy control) to divers. Divers, by virtue of the close contact they have with marine ecosystems, can also better appreciate the need for protecting and conserving the marine environment.
An annual beach and reef clean-up is held at Pulau Payar Marine Park, under the auspices of the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Project A.W.A.R.E., involving the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, Langkawi Coral, Pro Dive and other tour and dive operators. This is an important awareness raising event that should be further promoted and encouraged.
The education of local residents in Pulau Langkawi, Kedah and Perils on the long term benefits of the Marine Park is crucial to ensure acceptance of the Marine Park, and to avoid any ill-feeling or resentment with regards to any infringement of rights, especially pertaining to fishing. Fishing communities should be specifically targeted to ensure that they understand how the Marine Park helps to sustain their livelihood. A marine conservation and awareness programme must be implemented in local schools to ensure that residents, from young, are inculcated with the right attitudes towards their surrounding environment. The Department of Fisheries Malaysia conducts diving courses for local fishermen in order to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of the marine environment. In addition, under the Bay of Bengal Programme, fishermen are being trained as Ecotourism guides. These are important steps, not only in raising awareness, but also in encouraging community participation in the planning and management of the Marine Park.
Staff of the Marine Park, tour operators and dive operators should be adequately trained, especially in matters pertaining to visitor management and relations, as well as to increase general knowledge and conservation awareness of the marine environment. The Department of Fisheries Malaysia already conducts regular training programmes for their staff. In addition, Marine Park rangers and managers have also been sent to undergo short-term attachment training with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia (Hiew & Abdul Rahim, 1996). Rangers are also trained on basic coral reef research methods to increase the capacity for data collection.
In addition, training on nature interpretation should be provided for Marine Park staff, tour operators and dive operators. This will help increase social carrying capacity, as training will help achieve high standards of service. Training should endeavour to improve skills, develop understanding, raise motivation, and help ensure that limited resources for conservation and enjoyment of the marine environment are used more effectively (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia 1996).
The Department of Fisheries Malaysia has a significant role to play in the strict enforcement of Marine Park regulations. They must ensure that the regulations are adhered to, and that non-compliance is strictly dealt with. Wong (1996) found that both Marine Park managers and tour operators agreed unanimously that strict enforcement of regulations was important to extremely important for protecting the marine environment. However, it is important to also realise that it is insufficient to rely strictly on regulatory controls of activities and behaviour (Wong, 1996). Enforcement of Marine Park regulations cannot stand alone, but must instead complement other effective management strategies.
The Establishment of Marine Parks Malaysia Order 1994, which was conferred by subsection 41(1) of the Fisheries Act 1985 brought into force Marine Park regulations with immediate effect. Fishing is a prohibited activity within Marine Park waters; unfortunately illegal fishing still occurs occasionally, especially at Pulau Segantang which is further away and more difficult to police. Nonetheless, enforcement measures must continue as the illegal fishing activities will ultimately undermine the integrity of the Marine Park. Patrols around the waters of the Marine Park, including around Pulau Segantang, should be conducted regularly. Department of Fisheries staff heading back to Kuala Kedah are supposed to patrol Marine Park waters, including around Pulau Segantang, every time there is a shift change. This should be adhered to as far as practical and possible.
At low tide, boats tend to pass over the Marine Park Centre House Reef to transfer passengers. This not only poses a safety risk to snorkellers in the water, but can also result in physical damage to the reef when boats run aground on coral or propellers hit coral. Once the new jetty is built and a snorkelling area is cordoned off, this problem should be eliminated. In the meantime, Marine Park staff should not allow boats to pass over coral at low tide. Tour and boat operators should check tide tables and time their arrivals such that they can safely pass over the reef to get to the existing jetty.
Tourist control when they are snorkelling, especially at low tide, is essential to ensure that they do not trample on coral, or collect coral and shells. Tour and dive operators should operate a self-regulatory system, and ensure that their customers adhere to Marine Park regulations. Marine Park staff should also step up surveillance of the snorkelling area in front of the Marine Park Centre, as should Langkawi Coral Pontoon staff at their house reef.
The fish feeding activities at the Marine Park should also be regulated. At present, visitors are free to feed fish and juvenile sharks whatever they like, both in terms of quantity and quality. There have also been cases of visitors being bitten by sharks as they were not careful when feeding them. The impacts of fish feeding on fish health, natural aggregations and predator-prey relationships have not yet been studied. This should be considered for future research activities. In the meantime, some form of regulation and control on fish feeding activities is necessary. At the very least, the type of food given, the quantity of food given and who does the feeding should be regulated.
Since the Langkawi Coral Pontoon lacks any sort of Marine Park presence, the pontoon operators must be self-policing and ensure that their guests comply with Marine Park regulations. In this respect, they have gone some way, by putting up signboards on the pontoon and briefing guests on Marine Park regulations before arrival at the Marine Park. Marine Park staff should make occasional visits to the pontoon to monitor visitor activities and to ensure that Langkawi Coral is not contravening any regulations.
In addition, the management of sewage and solid waste disposal should adhere to existing legislation such as the Environmental Quality Act 1974, the Environmental Quality (Sewage and Industrial Effluents) Regulations 1979 and the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974. It must be ensured that discharge of sewage into the sea does not occur indiscriminately and that proper reception facilities are provided at Pulau Langkawi to deal with waste effectively.
The 5,000% increase in visitor numbers to Pulau Payar Marine Park over the last seven years is an unacceptable change, given the Marine Park status of the islands, the physical limitations to space, the inadequacy of facilities especially toilets, sewage and solid waste disposal, the increasing dissatisfaction of tourists with some aspects of the Marine Park and the threats the reefs are currently facing from tourism. In light of this, a serious decision has to be made by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, as managers of the Marine Park, to limit visitor numbers and to manage visitors such that detrimental effects on the marine environment are minimised.
A few options are available to the Department of Fisheries Malaysia should they decide to limit visitor use. The existing permit requirement system can be utilised for such purposes, seeing that tour and dive operators already have to apply for a permit for entry to Pulau Payar Marine Park. Visitor permits are issued by the Department of Fisheries from Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang, Kuala Kedah and Alor Setar. Thus far, there are no limits to the issuance of permits, as long as the number of passengers do not exceed the limit imposed by the Marine Department (12 passengers a boat); this is more a safety precaution than a conservation measure. There are also no limits to the number of boats that can come in to the Marine Park per day; these vary with demand. At present, there seems to be enough boats at the moment to cater for the number of tourists coming in, even at peak periods. Permits also have to be obtained for overnight camping, and there is a physical limit of 30 campers at any one time.
To limit visitor use, the Department of Fisheries Malaysia can therefore choose to:
(a) Limit the number of tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park per day. This would require determining a limiting number, and rejecting permits once this number is reached. However, this action would probably be very difficult to implement as tour operators already have tours booked in advanced, and would not be able to change this or reject customers based on daily fluctuations in visitors.
(b) Limit the number of tourists in a tour group, that is limiting the size of a tour group that may enter Pulau Payar Marine Park. This action is possible, as long as tour operators are consulted and are given advanced warning so that they can tailor their operations to meet the new requirements.
(c) Limit the number of boats that may enter Pulau Payar Marine Park per day. This would require determining a limiting number, and rejecting permits once this number is reached. However, this action would probably be very difficult to implement as tour operators already have tours booked in advanced, and would not be able to change this or reject customers based on daily fluctuations in visitors.
(d) Limit the number of boats that a certain tour or dive operator can utilise to bring visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park. This action is possible, as long as tour and dive operators are consulted and are given advanced warning so that they can tailor their operations to meet the new requirements.
(e) Limit the number of licensed tour and dive operators that may bring visitors into Pulau Payar Marine Park. This action is possible, and would enable stricter policing as well. The current system allows for any tour operation to come into the Park, regardless of whether or not they have their own boats, as they can rent boats from other tour or boat operators. The preliminary list drawn up by the Department of Fisheries does not take into account many other tour operators who tag onto the listed operations. The first step would be to identify all the tour and dive operators that bring visitors to the Marine Park, and from there, create a system whereby only registered tour or dive operators can bring visitors into the Marine Park.
(f) Limit the number of divers that may enter the Marine Park per day. This is a step that is probably unnecessary at the moment as diver related damage to the reefs is minimal.
(g) Limit the number of divers in a dive group at any one time. It is recommended that this be done, based on boat capacity and the ability of Dive Masters to control a dive group. Currently most dive operators bring in on average, groups of six to eight. This is an ideal number and should be implemented.
In addition, the zoning system for the Marine Park can also be utilised to limit visitor use. Limits on the number of visitors that may enter a certain zone can then be set and implemented. Another tool for limiting visitor use would be the implementation of user fees. The setting up a fee structure for entry into the Marine Park should be looked into to ensure that the revenue earned from tourism benefits the Marine Park as well (see Section 4.4.4 for a more detailed discussion). An individual's willingness-to-pay is a measure of the economic value placed on being able to undertake specific marine tourist activities and on being able to visit specific marine and coastal tourist sites (Wong, 1997). Thus, the implementation of an entry fee or user fee could help reduce the numbers of visitors to the Marine Park by attracting only those who are willing to pay for the benefits they obtain from visiting the Marine Park; these visitors are often also more environmentally aware and responsible.
The participation of tour and dive operators in this whole exercise of limiting visitor use is crucial for its success. A consensus must be reached about whether or not limits should be imposed, how they should be imposed and what limits should be imposed.
Tourism in Malaysia's Marine Parks has yet to be well-documented, monitored and evaluated, leaving Marine Park managers with insufficient objective information for decision making and actions (Wong, 1996). This has led to ad hoc and reactive responses rather than proactive and planned decision making. Monitoring and evaluation will enable the maintenance of a record of marine resource and social conditions over time, as well as will help managers assess the effectiveness of any management actions implemented.
Since coral species survive within narrow salinity and temperature ranges, any marked changes in parameters such as light penetration, sedimentation, nutrient levels and dissolved oxygen may affect the growth or survival of reef organisms. Physical and chemical properties of water should be measured regularly as should reef condition relative to baseline information. It is also crucial to monitor indicators such as coral cover, water quality, changes in reef biota such as fish and coral, algal cover and the number of broken coral branches (to demonstrate damage by boats, snorkellers and divers). The impacts offish feeding at the Marine Park Centre and Langkawi Coral Pontoon should also be monitored closely. Particularly important would be the effects on fish assemblages and predator-prey relationships. On-going activities such as the monitoring of the coral bleaching phenomenon and the impact of the Langkawi Coral Pontoon on its house reef should be continued.
Visitor numbers should continue to be monitored, along with information such as nationality of tourist and place of embarkation. Social aspects of tourism such as visitor response to crowding and visitor satisfaction should also be monitored by means of a simple questionnaire.
The specification of what level of effect should be detectable by any monitoring programme implicitly involves setting limits of acceptable change. When the monitoring results are obtained, any observed changes are compared against an implicit critical threshold which will trigger some sort of management action designed to rectify the situation.