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How can Cyprus become greener while making blue money

Blue MoneyIn a recession like the one the world is suffering right now everyone is looking for other ways to make money. Be it new ideas or services or offering better deals. The worst solution to date is minimizing staff. Initially it might seem like a good idea to reduce costs but when everyone is doing it we are also minimizing the buyers out there. As is always the case, we look for solutions for our problems without realizing that some of the best solutions are just under our noses.

Blue money has made its way into many economies of the world. Some have labeled it ecotourism but I believe blue money is more specific to income generated from taking advantage of the sea. Cyprus has an untapped resource for blue money but very little is done about it as most government organizations seem to think the campaigns for tourism are enough or as has become fashionable in Cyprus now, the huge campaign for health tourism.

Sadly Cyprus is one of the most expensive holiday destination in Europe and realistically speaking, what do we really have to offer? Wine tasting and ancient ruins just don't cut it anymore. Most of our visitors however do come for two reasons, the sun and the sea. So why not utilize what we have to generate more income?

Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, the Maldives, Sudan and Malta, to name a few, have turned Blue Tourism into serious money and are attracting the spenders. The one thing all these destination have in common are protected areas. By having protected areas they will not suffer the detriment that overfishing and illegal fishing habits have caused in Cyprus. Cyprus might not have the most abundant or spectacular marine life like what is found in the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean but the Eastern Mediterranean does have it fare share of marine life. Dolphins for example are common to Cyprus but are also a major target of fisherman as they cause damage to fishing nets and are also hunting the same fish. Protecting areas in Cyprus will allow for ecosystems to flourish and allow for the attraction of people from all over the world. More importantly people who can afford to spend.

For example cage diving to see sharks could cost up to US$3000 per person per day, in Cyprus however, although rare, sharks are killed as trophies. Up to US$4000 a day is spent per trip for deep sea fishing for large game fish like tuna, but again this market is untouched. Malta has created an abundance of artificial reefs attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. One attempt was made in Cyprus but disorganization and even some corruption lead to a complete disaster - so now we have an artificial reef that no one is allowed near. Several artificial reefs do exist but are either not easy to reach or are too expensive to visit. The Zenovia Wreck is known as one of the top ten wrecks for scuba diving in the world, this should tell us something.

A nonprofit NGO in Cyprus, Nautilos Search and Rescue Team, has dedicated volunteers to help protect our sea and the visitors who spend their time in and around the sea. Several research projects are being conducted by them to understand our ecosystems and to help find ways to protect these ecosystems and the habitats that are endangered as a result of over fishing, dynamite fishing and chlorine fishing. Other than research a monthly beach sea cleanup up is done by its volunteers to help protect the environment and the ecosystems affected by the abundance of little left behind by beach and sea goers.

It is my belief that if more effort is spent protecting our aquatic environment more money could be made from quality tourists. The costs required to do these things are minimal and the potential for profit is huge. We have the resources why not take advantage of them? Is Blue money the future for Cyprus's economic problems?

By Marios Efthimiu
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