Diving in Gozo is as important a resource as the island’s historical sites – Sant
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Alfred Sant remarked that diving in Gozo is as important a resource as the island’s beautiful Citadel and its Megalithic Temples.
He also stressed the need to protect this niche industry as much as we protect Gozo’s historical and cultural attractions.
Dr Sant was speaking during a visit to Ix-Xatt l-Ahmar in Gozo – one of the island’s most popular spots with diving enthusiasts exploring under water wreckages.
He was updated on the challenges facing this important industry in Gozo by Mr Mark Busuttil a pioneer of the diving sector and one of the major operators in Gozo.
The Maltese MEP said that “we need to keep the diving industry in Gozo innovative and sustainable whilst doing more to make this extremely important sector for Gozo viable.”
Dr Sant and Mr Busuttil also discussed the prospects of Gozo’s tourism most important niche which, they said, “already attracts 20% among the total number of tourists that visit Malta’s sister island all year round.”
The noted that, despite tough competition from destinations in the Red Sea, Gozo still attracts thousands of divers from all over Europe.
Mr Busuttil explained that the scuttling of more wrecks in Gozo will reduce the impact and stress on more natural and environmentally sensitive sites in Gozo and will further stimulate the diving industry.
However, Dr Sant pointed out that the EU considers the creation of wrecks as “dumping at sea,” which is one main obstacles for its implementation.
Mark Busuttil said more wrecks would serve as an attraction per se and as an artificial reef for fish colonisation, but most importantly reduce the impact and stress on natural, more environmentally sensitive sites. “Scuttling new wrecks is the easiest way of keeping the dive product alive and innovative,” he added.
The wrecks scuttled at Xatt l-Ahmar in 2006 changed it to the second most frequented site after Dwejra.
Mr Busuttil remarked that “divers are environmentalists in their nature and wrecks do absolutely no damage. Unlike the building on land, the scuttling could be reversed. If in the future a wreck breaks and a decision is made for it to be cut and lifted, this could be done.”
He went on to say that for the sake of diving Gozo needs to create marine protected sites that have the appropriate physical characteristics of sites where marine life was abundant in the past.
In Gozo the first obvious site has to be Dwejra, followed by stretches on the north coast between Marsalforn and Wied il-Mielah, then Comino, he said.
“Dive shop owners like myself always try to promote the off peak months,” he said, “but the government needs to help us by upgrading the product and facilities.”
He argued that “the local operators already face unfair competition by foreigners who operate only during the high season.”
Mr Busuttil also stressed the importance to deal with sewage outflow problems which affect negatively this industry.