05 Jun2013

Samadai Under New Management

Samadai Under New Management

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Samadai, also known as "Dolphin house" is considered one of the world's leading dolphin retreats. This strategic and precious dolphin sanctuary will be coming under new management as of 2013. General Mohamed Kamel, Governor of the Red Sea, has issued a new decree handing over management of Samadai to HEPCA. The Samadai management plan has been one of our community's most important achievements towards protecting the dolphins of the Red Sea. This initiative was the first time that civil society, the government, and the tourism sector set aside their differences to protect one of our countries most valuable resources. This model will always stand as a testament of our community's ability to mobilize in protection of our environment and natural resources. The story of Samadai began in 2004, when various community members started sharing disturbing reports of unsustainable practices and harassment of dolphins taking place at the site. Immediate action had to be taken and our community rallied behind a massive campaign, which brought the Samadai issues to the spotlight. As a result of our mobilization, Red Sea Governor Sayed Abu Rida issued a decree in 2004 protecting this site and regulating all tourism activities. The declaration designated Samadai as a protected area and a management plan was subsequently implemented. Although Samadai was beyond the border of the protected areas; the main reason behind the declaration was the protection of the resident spinner dolphins, which were under great threat. The management plan separated the dolphin habitat into a zoning system and access to the site was limited to 200 visitors per day. A visitor's fee was also set to limit accessibility and these revenues were allocated towards supporting national park services, as well as mooring installation and maintenance by HEPCA. A monitoring program was also established to collect data on the impacts these visitations are having on the dolphins and their habitat. In the 9 years since the Samadai management plan was first started; it's become apparent that the site has been poorly managed. HEPCA has received numerous complaints and reports from dive centers about irresponsible practices still taking place. The demand for this strategic site has been in decline due to lack of vision and visitor engagement. Crucial information about this unique site and the resident dolphins has not been provided. Educational media and awareness raising tools have been lacking and the monitoring program was not sustained. Many visitors have expressed dissatisfaction with the experience due to the lack of information or presence of qualified personal. This is unacceptable for a site with so much potential for revenue generation, job creation, and our reputation as an environmentally sustainable and responsible tourism destination. With this new decree, HEPCA will take full charge of managing this important resource in collaboration with our partners. To commemorate this new initiative, HEPCA will be offering free excursions to Samadai for school children and local residents every Friday. HEPCA will be carrying out a multi-faceted campaign over the coming weeks, which aims to invoke a new sense of community ownership over this precious site and its resident spinner dolphins. Raising awareness and providing educational media will be our most important target in the initial phase. Providing factual information and managing visitor's expectations is how our members can help. HEPCA has provided a comprehensive guide for dive and tour guides, which can be downloaded here for free. Most of our members have already received this booklet and participated in our Samadai workshop last year. Building on these plans will be a free certification program provided for dive and tour guides. This 8 hour course will be in order to assure a quality experience for every visitor and implementation of best practices in the area. Dedicated personal and dolphin specialists will be on-site to engage visitors and provide information. Educational pamphlets will be provided and HEPCA will also be creating a new web-site with additional information and valuable resources. Streaming live web-cam including underwater streaming video will also be broadcast on the web-site. A hydrophone will also broadcast through radio transmission allowing any boat radio to tune into the frequency and hear the dolphins. Our fully equipped floating classroom "the bio-boat," will also be deployed at the site providing hands on interactive learning for students and visitors alike. HEPCA will continue building on scientific research such as "The Red Sea Dolphin Project," in order for us to make informed decisions about the future management of the Samadai National Park. A monitoring program will be re-established to ensure that decisions we are taking are based on robust science. HEPCA's vision is to build on the current Samadai management framework, with a new dimension that will give added value to this tourist attraction. Our aim is to enhance the experience of this amazing site, thereby increasing income and reinvesting it back into environmental conservation. Samadai needs to be revitalized as an experience that goes much beyond just swimming with dolphins. A new vision and management approach will allow us to provide a much more memorable and fulfilling experience. Most importantly, this campaign is about our community finally having the opportunity to express a new ownership over the management of a very important national resource. HEPCA is once again calling on the Red Sea community to re-ignite the momentum that first brought the Samadai initiative to news headlines in 2005. We are asking all of our members, as well as the beneficiaries and the users of this unique site to support and help us in achieving these objectives. The Samadai management plan was created for the purpose of protecting this unique dolphin habitat and we will not waiver from this mission.

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