Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Latest shark diving hot spot? Boncuk Bay, Turkey

The latest hot spot for shark divers is not Isla Guadalupe but, as it turns out, Boncuk Bay, Turkey.

While we're not sure about the commercial appeal of Sand Bar sharks as a main item, any site in the Med that is reusing sharks instead of killing them has our support.

The hardest part about this new dive site is just pronouncing the street names.

MUĞLA - Doğan News Agency
Boncuk Bay situated in the Gulf of Gökova, a long narrow gulf in Muğla province in southwestern Turkey, will open for shark tourism in the upcoming months and has been sealed off to tourists at present.

The bay has been closed to domestic and foreign tourists. Serving caravan tourism for more than 30 years, the facilities in Boncuk, listed among the top 100 natural paradises of Turkey, have been sealed off. Currently, officials in Boncuk do not allow the entry of caravans coming from different parts of the world. Locals claim although the project is one that will save the sandbar sharks, which are harmless to humans, it is a blow to the long-established tourism business in the region.

Boncuk Bay, located within the official borders of Çamlıköy Village in the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris, was declared a protected site in 1990. Last year, officials from the Environment and Forest Ministry, Dokuz Eylül University's Faculty of Fisheries, and the Underwater Research Society, or SAD, carried out some examinations in the bay.

Following the examinations, the Environmental Protection Agency for Special Areas declared Boncuk Bay a protected area since it is home to Carcharhinus Plumbeus, sandbar sharks.

Currently, Boncuk Bay is closed to tourism activity. Officials have placed a number of buoys in the water to restrict boat cruises, fishing, swimming, and scuba diving in the bay. Entry to the bay both from the land and the sea has been barred.

On the other hand, the Boncuk Camping and Tourism Facility, the only existing facility in the bay, has been sentenced to a YTL 18,000 cash fine for it repaired its toilets without official permission and its operating permit has not been renewed. The administrative authority in the region informed managers of the facility that the area has been appropriated for protection of sandbar sharks before it sealed it off.

Boncuk Bay is the only spot in the Mediterranean and the second in the world for proliferation of sandbar sharks that do not pose any danger to humans. Foreign tourists who come to the bay now have to change their destination to neighboring resort towns simply because they cannot enter the bay.

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