Peace Corps Volunteers may be English teachers, but also public health advisors; environmental camp facilitators and also aquaponics specialists. We are often assumed to be an expert in an innumerable amount of fields and our opinions often carry weight in circumstances we would have never expected.
Most recently I was asked to evaluate the environmental impact of an underwater submarine tour: a new tourist experience offered off Carabao Island in Romblon Province to view the coral reef without even getting wet. Of course this also meant going for a ride in the submarine!
My evaluation included:
“Benefits of the Experience,” such as tourist education regarding the coral reef ecosystem.
“Areas of Concern,” such as issues of noise pollution or structural damage, both of which were unfounded during this tour experience.
I also highly advised AGAINST fish feeding at this site. Fish feeding disrupts the natural balance of the ecosystem because fish are not eating their natural food. Perhaps more algae will begin to grow if these fish are not grazing on it and soon the reef could shift from beautiful corals to overwhelming algae. Also if need approximately 10 essential amino acids that they cannot make on their own and must get from their diet. Imagine the malnutrition caused in humans and reef fish alike if your diet is solely bread rolls! Finally, fish feeding causes behavior changes in fish populations. While the submarine owner may be excited about schools of fish which readily approach people and the submarine, this may cause them to be easily caught by predators. Or they may display aggressive behavior to other fish or even people as they compete for these free handouts. Therefore my recommendation is always to take only pictures and leave only bubbles when you explore the reef as a scuba diver, snorkeler, or submarine tourist.
Lastly, I offered my recommendations for improvement including the possibility of future giant clam farming or providing tourists with red lens glasses to explore the underwater world when red wavelengths of light are added back into your vision or your photos.
Although Peace Corps Volunteers may not always be an expert, we are incredibly resourceful and dedicated and oftentimes those two qualities can lead to the possession of expert knowledge.