Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Island turns tide on tourist hordes

PRECIOUS ECOSYSTEMS:With ever greater numbers of people visiting Pingtung County’s Siaoliouciou Island, a plan to protect its intertidal regions has been unveiled

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer

People visit an intertidal area on iaoliouciou Island in Pingtung County on Monday.

Photo: CNA

A policy limiting tourist access to intertidal zones off Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球) in Pingtung County will be brought into force next month following recent research that found the number of animal species in the zone was rapidly decreasing because of the excessive volume of visitors, the Pingtung County Government has said.

Lo Liu-chih (羅柳墀), an assistant professor at National Kaohsiung Normal University’s department of geography, was commissioned to research and investigate the island’s intertidal zones. Researchers said that if the areas were not protected, tourism would suffer in the long run.

Research undertaken over the past year-and-a-half has revealed nearly 700 species of animals — including crabs, shellfish, echinoderms and other cnidarians — inhabit the island. Lo added that more than 110 new species of animal life unique to Siaoliouciou were recorded. By contrast, Taiwan island proper recorded only five new species of animal life over the same time period, Lo said.

However, according to Lo’s research, there were an average of 2,000 tourists per day visiting the biodiversity-rich intertidal areas and this has greatly impacted on the ecology of the area.

Lo said that at Shanfu, one of the areas that has been damaged the most, researchers were unable to find animal life over 2cm in length within a 1m2 area.

According to Pingting County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻), as Siaoliouciou has developed into a tourist hotspot over the past two to three years, it has become one of Taiwan’s most visited islands.

However, the large numbers of people coming and going has impacted greatly on the ecology of the intertidal zones, Tsao said, adding that the study had found that the four most visited intertidal zones, namely Shanfu (杉福), Geban Bay (蛤板灣), Yucheng Wei (漁埕尾) and Duozaiping (肚仔坪), now only contain one-twentieth of the animal life found in other intertidal zones.

Starting on Aug. 1, the county government is to officially implement measures to control the flow of tourists into the Shanfu area, which is being designated as a testing area for crowd control.

No more than 300 tourists may be allowed into the area at one time and tourists going into the intertidal area must hire a paid tour guide who has a permit, Tsao said.

The county government will also be setting up a series of floating slabs for tourists to access intertidal zones in a bid to minimize the damage they cause to the vulnerable areas, Tsao said, adding that those who disobey the regulations face fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 under the Fisheries Act (漁業法).

Tsao added that the county government would be evaluating the effects of the crowd control policies after a full season and if there was no obvious recovery of the areas, the county government would seal off the area from December to March.

Should the measures prove to be effective, however, they would be implemented in other intertidal areas, he said.

Shanfu is set to become the nation’s first intertidal zone crowd control program and if the scheme is successful it could become an example of best practice for intertidal zone management, Tsao added.

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