The Development of Ecotourism and Its Possible Impacts on Maritime Cultural Heritage: The Case of the Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea

Institute of Anthropology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan

The Dongsha Atoll, including Dongsha (Pratas) Island on the western side of the Atoll, has rich and diverse natural and cultural resources. In the past decade, five ancient shipwrecks have been discovered as a result of intensive survey and research. The studies not only add to the new list of maritime cultural heritage, but also create potential resources for future development in the Atoll. The Republic of China (Taiwan) government has already initiated a management plan of Dongsha Atoll for ecotourism.

As of the current situation, however, the in-place protective scheme of the national park of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 2007 over the Atoll prohibits public access and has resulted in an ineffective management plan for public appreciation and tourism. Despite a series of feasibility studies, there has been an ongoing debate whether the Dongsha Atoll should be open for ecotourism. The main issue regards to what extent ecotourism may impact the ocean environment and the being of maritime cultural heritage in the Atoll.

This paper thus attempts to discuss the stage of maritime cultural heritage protection at the Atoll and its development into the ecotourism scheme. It aims at the better understanding of the situation and potentiality for future development.