Sri Lanka drafts new rules for marine tourism

June 26, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is drafting new rules to protect the marine environment with tourist ventures such as whale and dolphin watching expected to become big business with the end of the war, a senior official said. Michael noted how unregulated tourism had spoilt some of the island’s best beaches such as in Hikkaduwa, on the south-west coast, whose coral reefs which attracted tourists have largely been destroyed.

He said the ministries of tourism, fisheries, and the environment were holding talks on drafting the new rules. Tourism ministry secretary K A D George Michael said the government was aware of the importance of safeguards to protect the marine habitat and ensure sustainable tourism practices.

With the end of the 25-year ethnic war after the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels last month, the authorities anticipate a revival in tourism which had long been in the doldrums owing to the conflict.

Already, a few tourist businesses have begun promoting whale and dolphin watching tours, a hitherto unexploited resource.

The new tours offered by operators have raised fears among environmentalists and scientists of potential harm to marine life and the environment, given their unregulated nature.