The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Diving important as resource for Gozo as much as Citadel, megalithic temples - Sant

Monday, 8 April 2019, 14:34 Last update: about 5 months ago

Diving in Gozo is as important a resource as the island's beautiful Citadel and its Megalithic Temples, said former Prime Minister Alfred Sant who stressed the need to protect this niche industry as much as we protect Gozo’s historical and cultural attractions. The Maltese MEP said we need to keep the diving industry in Gozo innovative and sustainable whilst doing more to make this extremely important sector for Gozo viable.

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Alfred Sant visited Ix-Xatt l-Aħmar in Gozo - one of Gozo’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.

Sant and Busuttil discussed the prospects of Gozo’s tourism most important niche which already attracts 20% among the total number of tourists that visit Malta’s sister island all year round. Despite tough competition from destinations in the Red Sea, Gozo still attracts thousands of divers from all over Europe.

Busuttil said 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 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.  The wrecks scuttled at Xatt l-Aħmar in 2006 changed it to the second most frequented site after Dwejra.

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.

Busuttil said 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-Mielaħ, then Comino.

Dive shop owners like myself always try to promote the off peak months but the government needs to help us by upgrading the product and facilities.” Mr Busuttil said, adding that the local operators already face unfair competions by foreigners who operate only during the high season.

Busuttil stressed the importance to deal with sewage outflow problems which affect negatively this industry.

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