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Seashore ladders at Malta's top diving sites will no longer be removed in winter, as the island plans on boosting its recreational scuba diving industry and making up for losses inflicted by the pandemic.

 The authorities will also look into ensuring the availability of parking spots close to diving sites and building permanent mooring buoys at designated sites as part of a national diving strategy.

On Monday the government launched the sustainable strategy, which focuses on enhancing the industry's competitiveness, particularly as countries like Egypt and Tunisia court the same market.

Éilis McCullough from Adi Associates, who compiled the strategy, outlined how improving scuba diving as an economic niche would entail improving access to, and infrastructure around the country’s prime diving sites, as well as helping businesses diversify their products. One single entity will from now onwards be responsible for maintaining infrastructure at dive sites. Currently, different sites are under the care of several different entities, including the Malta Tourism Authority and various local councils.

The strategy also seeks to establish boundaries for designated dive sites as well as marine parks, and better safety management. CCTV systems will start being installed in Ċirkewwa this year. When it comes to environmental stewardship, the strategy also lays out that the government will seek to engage with stakeholders to make sure there is more awareness of regulations and better enforcement of the rules.

This includes providing training to people who are regular visitors to diving sites such as boat operators and crew, and ensuring they are aware of designated no-stopping zones and conservation areas. The authorities will also organise local training courses and, in ensuring the longevity of the industry, the strategy will also seek to diversify Malta’s diving product through new attractions such as artificial reefs and wrecks.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo told a press conference that this process will kick off in 2022 with the vessel Hephaestus - which ran aground in St Paul’s Bay in 2018 - scuttled on the southern coast of Gozo in July.

The strategy also lays out potential for a niche technical diving market for those diving below 50 metres. However, it recommends that a separate working document be produced for this area.

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