Our oceans are a massive attraction for tourists around the globe every year. Although visiting these beautiful natural areas can be a fulfilling experience, one must be aware of the effects it may bring upon the environment. If tourism is done in an unsustainable manner, it can bring about numerous negative effects on our oceans. 

How can marine tourism harm corals?

To start off, marine tourism can disrupt and damage our coral reefs, which are epicenters of life and biodiversity. According to EarthJustice.org, when diving excursions touch, pollute, or break off parts of the reef, the corals will experience stress, which actually leads to coral bleaching, a harmful process for not only the coral, but the entire ecosystem as a whole. During the process, the corals attempt to expel the brightly colored algae that reside on them, resulting in a sort of white appearance. This will lead to their death, which brings detrimental consequences to the life that depend on them. Another negative effect that can be brought on by unsustainable tourism practices is that of sedimentation. EarthJustice.org states that this process involves the deposition of dirt and debris into the ocean, polluting the marine ecosystems and blocking the much needed sunlight that algae rely on to survive. Once this sunlight is blocked, the algae die, once again bringing about coral bleaching. In Costa Rica, sedimentation occurs through the processes of dredging, loging, agriculture, and coastal development that is brought about by marine tourism. Earthjustice.org goes on to state that 50% of all coral reefs in Latin America are at risk of degradation in the next five to ten years. Additionally, 30% of coral reefs around the globe are already severely damaged, and 70% of all reefs are expected to disappear by 2030 (Cossio, 7). This would bring about detrimental consequences to the entire planet, as thousands of species that are necessary to the ocean and the planet as a whole rely on these reefs. They also bring about many benefits to humans as well, housing large fisheries, which bring in large amounts of income and food, the mitigation of the effects of natural disasters, and being epicenters for tourism.

Marine Debris & Tourism – Profugo – A Global Neighborhood for a Better  Quality of LIfe

                                                    From We the Recyclates

Unsustainable tourism can also lead to innumerable amounts of garbage being dumped into the oceans. According to NOAA, marine debris can kill or harm wildlife, as they may consume it or become entangled within it. The World Economic Forum states that 8 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year (Lacle, Dragozet, Novotny, 11). In addition to this, they also state that 14,000 tonnes of toxic sunscreen end up in the ocean each year, and on top of this, 82,000 different kinds of chemicals can find their way into the oceans (Lacle, Dragozet, Novotny, 9). Planet Wild states that boat traffic can also affect marine life as well. It may lead to accidental oil spills, collisions with marine mammals, disturbance of the sea floor, the introduction of invasive species, and it may chase away key species from their habitats. Unsustainable tourism can also bring about the issue of noise pollution, as areas may have hundreds of boats all touring a coastline, bringing about a disruptive level of noise. As a result, this disrupts wildlife in the area, and additionally may also interrupt dolphin and whale communication, who rely on sound for communication and navigation. 

Summary

 Although tourism in marine areas acts as an escape for millions each year, as well as a massive source of income for many countries, it must be done in a sustainable manner. Unsustainable tourism brings a plethora of harmful consequences for our oceans, and it is imperative that it is addressed and acted on. One should still be able to enjoy the fruitful benefits of the ocean, but it must be only done in a careful manner. 

Written by Michael Basharis 

References

https://earthjustice.org/article/coral-reefs-and-the-unintended-impact-of-tourism

https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-pollution

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/tourism-is-killing-our-oceans-heres-what-we-can-do-to-protect-them/

https://planetwild.com/blog/why-is-mass-tourism-bad-for-the-ocean

https://wir-fuer-recyclat.de/en/muellmeer-mehr-muelle

 

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