Best Practices Guide

Responsible Tourism In Marine Protected Areas

Discover how to be a responsible traveller and learn about the key principles for being a sustainable marine traveller in North Mindoro, alongside the Verde Island Passage

Background image © Gary Lotter

Traveling with a Purpose: A Guide to Responsible Marine Ecotourism

As someone who loves to explore the beauty Marine Protected Areas, you have the power to contribute to its preservation through responsible marine ecotourism. Your visit can bring revenue, create jobs, and increase the benefits of marine conservation for coastal communities. But it’s important to remember that tourism can also have negative effects if not done with care. That’s why we created this guide for you.

We want to help you be mindful of the issues and challenges that come with visiting a Marine Protected Area, and to show you how to follow best practices to minimise any harm to marine life. These best practices include both obvious and subtle steps, but they’re all crucial for maintaining the health and beauty of the North Mindoro MPA network for future generations to enjoy. So, let’s make the most of your vacation while being mindful of the environment. 

© Pedro Magsino


Snorkelling and Diving in Oriental Mindoro

Dive into the underwater paradise of Oriental Mindoro, alongside the Verde Island Passage, and discover the wonders that lie beneath its waves through snorkelling and diving. These popular activities provide an opportunity to witness the captivating behaviours of marine creatures and truly immerse yourself in the oceanic ecosystem.

But take care, there is a potential for harm to these delicate environments if proper care is not taken. Accidental damage to coral reefs, particularly for inexperienced divers, can easily occur through careless contact with corals or disruption of the sea floor.

Such actions not only hinder visibility, but also interfere with the vital sunlight that reaches undersea plants, affecting the feeding habits of filter-feeding creatures. Approaching reef life too closely can induce stress, altering their natural behaviour, potentially causing them to stop feeding or become more vulnerable to predators. Providing food to wild creatures may also encourage dependence on humans, which can negatively impact the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

© Thomas Vignaud

responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro

Why following best practices is crucial in Oriental Mindoro

Coral reefs in the area are highly vulnerable and can take years to recover from damage due to their slow growth rate. The diverse marine life, including fish, have specialised diets that do not include snacks from divers. Your actions while exploring the underwater world of Mindoro island can have a tangible impact – from discarding litter to carelessly kicking with fins or leaving bubbles in tunnels and caves. It’s essential to take precautions to preserve the beauty and delicate balance of the region’s underwater ecosystems.

  • Before your adventure in North Mindoro, hone your snorkelling or diving skills. Focus on mastering buoyancy control, swimming against the current, and maintaining proper depth and positioning. The better you are in the water, the lower the risk of accidentally harming the marine life and environment.
  • Before each dive, consult with your local guide or boat captain on the specific regulations and best practices in the area.
  • Maintain spatial awareness underwater, especially when wearing fins, as it can be challenging to see what you’re kicking against.
  • Be mindful of your impact on the marine environment and take everything with you when you leave the water, including litter.
  • Limit the use of chemicals, such as sunscreen, that can harm the water chemistry.
  • Approach marine life slowly and give them plenty of space. Do not chase after marine species if they swim away, and avoid corralling them.
  • Take pictures with care and prioritise the well-being of the creatures over getting the perfect shot.
  • Avoid touching or feeding any marine species, as it can cause harm or alter their natural behaviour. Respect the ecosystem by leaving all creatures, dead or alive, in their natural habitat, even empty seashells.
  • For first-time snorkellers or divers, stay close to the guide and group to avoid sensitive areas.
  • Inspect your gear before entering the water to avoid any problems and panic.

Using Boats and Kayaks in North Mindoro

When exploring the waters alongside the Verde Island Passage, boats and kayaks provide opportunities for exciting encounters with magnificent creatures such as turtles, dolphins and sharks. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these animals are also highly sensitive to human disturbance.

With boats capable of high speeds, sudden changes in direction and noisy engines, the risk of causing stress and harm to these animals is significant, particularly for dolphin mothers with young calves during important life cycle moments.

To prevent negative impacts, it’s important to avoid crowding animals and approaching them too closely, especially when multiple boats are present. Engine noise can disrupt the natural sonar of whales and dolphins, and there’s also the risk of collisions with propellers causing serious injuries to sea creatures. This is especially dangerous for slow-moving animals like sea turtles.

responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro

Why following best practices is crucial in North Mindoro

Marine wildlife in and alongside the Verde Island Passage is a unique treasure that needs to be protected and appreciated. By following best practices, you can ensure that your holiday experience of observing marine life is not only enjoyable but also sustainable.

Reefs in North Mindoro are fragile ecosystems that can take years to recover from physical damage caused by boats and kayaks. The slow growth rate of corals means that any harm done to them could lead to permanent damage, reducing the diversity of marine life and affecting fishing communities.

Stirring up the seabed with boats can create clouds of floating sediment, reducing visibility and limiting sunlight to reach the reefs. This can also harm seagrass and smaller creatures, which play a crucial role in filtering the water.

The presence of boats and kayaks in Mindoro’s waters can also affect the behaviour of marine species. The sudden and noisy movement of boats can scare wildlife away, altering their natural behaviour and reducing opportunities for observing them.

  • Move slowly and calmly, being as quiet as possible.
  • Approach obliquely or from behind to minimize disturbance.
  • Avoid sudden turns or creating a wake.
  • Switch off engines when close to wildlife.
  • Limit the number of boats at a sighting and avoid surrounding the creatures.
  • Do not chase departing wildlife.
  • Move parallel to pods of whales and dolphins and avoid splitting the groups.
  • Respect safe minimum distances.
  • Be aware of the animals’ location in relation to the boat to prevent accidents.
  • Switch off sonar and other acoustic systems when approaching whales and dolphins.
  • Limit the length and frequency of encounters.
  • Never touch or feed any sea creatures, even if they approach the boat.
  • Leave the sighting as carefully as you approached it.
  • Use designated areas for dropping anchors, avoid dragging anchors and chains across the seabed.
  • Consider using mooring buoys, which are fixed anchor points that only need to be installed once.

Eating Seafood and Buying Souvenirs alongside the Verde Island Passage

The seas surrounding North Mindoro are the source of livelihood for many local communities. The seafood you enjoy on your holiday, from the dishes in the restaurant to the souvenirs from the local market, are part of this ecosystem that supports their way of life. As a responsible traveller, you have a role in preserving the marine environment. By choosing sustainably sourced seafood and avoiding purchasing wildlife souvenirs, you help protect the delicate ecosystem and maintain its balance.

Overfishing and the use of unsustainable fishing methods can quickly reduce the population of popular species, leading to imbalances in the food chain and the destruction of habitats. When you contribute to the demand for these products, local fishermen may feel compelled to use harmful methods to meet that demand, causing further damage to the ocean’s resources.

By supporting responsible seafood practices, you can ensure that the ocean remains abundant for future generations to enjoy.

responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro
responsible scuba diving and snorkelling Verde Island Passage and North Mindoro

Why following best practices is crucial in Oriental Mindoro

Protecting marine wildlife in Oriental Mindoro is crucial for long-term ecosystem sustainability. By avoiding the consumption and purchase of vulnerable species, you help maintain biodiversity and prevent local extinctions.

Illegal fishing practices in the area can result in serious harm to the reef and negatively impact the livelihoods of coastal communities. On the other hand, choosing to support sustainable fishing methods contributes to a positive cycle of conservation.

Additionally, purchasing souvenirs made from protected species can result in legal consequences, including confiscation and fines, when returning to your home country. So, be mindful of your choices and help preserve the beauty of North Mindoro’s marine wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

  • Consider the impact of your food and souvenir choices
  • Research which species are considered sustainable to consume in North Mindoro.
  • As a general guideline, avoid purchasing and eating reef fish and undersized fish
  • Avoid purchasing or eating vulnerable or endangered species
  • Think about alternatives to souvenirs made from coral, turtle shells, or seashells

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Background image © Christian Manalo

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