How Tourism Affects Coastal Environments: Coral Bleaching

Millions of people visit beaches every year. Whether it be for a cruise, for swimming, for fishing, or any other reason. It all has an impact; but what impact? Many people don’t realize how they affect these environments. Pollution, destruction of habitats, overfishing, and reef destruction are all examples of these impacts.

It is important to protect coastal environments to keep the industry alive. Without the very thing that attracts tourists, the beautiful beaches and colorful fish, tourists wouldn’t come, and the industry would start to fail. The tourism industry is significant for any country’s economy. Without tourism, some economies would start to fall. Countries like the U.S., Jamaica, Barbados, the Philippines, Australia, and many more have a significant coastal tourism industry.

Tourism directly impacts coastal environments. Cruise ships cause pollution and destruction of habitats. Tourists themselves leave trash and pollute beaches. Delicate coral reefs are affected by near constant traffic. Many things that tourists do affect these environments, some directly and indirectly. Some environments are affected so much it’s nearly impossible to

restore it fully. It’s important to reduce pollution to keep the environment clean and healthy and to attract more tourism for the future.

Some words that would be helpful to know would be ecotourism, biomagnification, noise pollution, black water, sediment, and coral bleaching. Ecotourism is a type of tourism that takes one directly to an environment usually to observe wildlife: it is a type of sustainable tourism that supports conservation efforts. Biomagnification is the amount of toxins in an organism’s body as a result of feeding off other organisms that have toxins in them. Noise pollution is exactly that, the pollution of noise. Noise pollution causes fish and whales discomfort and harm; it also messes with their sense of navigation. Noise pollution is mainly caused by boats. Black water is waste water from toilets, usually used to refer to cruise ships. Coral bleaching is the process of corals expelling the algae living in them (named zooxanthellae), causing them to go completely white.

Tourism can have a lot of negative impacts on the environment. Direct pollution from cruise ships and resorts that release black water into ports and directly in the ocean, noise pollution that causes distress in marine animals, harm to coral reefs which contributes to loss of biodiversity and marine populations. Blackwater and sewage make ocean water unsanitary and also harmful for marine organisms by lowering water quality and introducing disease. Cruise ships are the main contributor of black water in the ocean, dumping tons of black water in the ocean each year. The decrease in water quality can also cause corals to be smothered or expel their zooxanthellae, causing coral bleaching. Harm to corals damages the extremely fragile ecosystem of a coral reef by damaging habitats and lowering food sources. Noise pollution from boats, cruise ships, and jet skis reduces populations of whales and dolphins by extreme sound killing or beaching such animals.

Noise travels farther underwater so the effect of noise pollution is greater underwater than above. Noise pollution can also cause great damage to marine animals’ hearing and also cause their migration patterns to change dramatically, causing the possibility of migrating marine life to become lost in the ocean. Tourists leaving garbage on beaches, causing it to be washed in the ocean, can be eaten by marine life and even birds; causing death and biomagnification of toxic chemicals which build up in marine predators’ bodies and could cause birth defects and death. This biomagnification can be passed onto humans by having people eat fish that have a huge build up of toxic chemicals in their flesh from biomagnification, which can cause birth defects in pregnant women as well. Garbage left by tourists can choke marine animals and build up in the stomach, materials such as plastics cause deaths in animals because they cannot digest it.

Tourism has its benefits as well. The money made from tourism can go to conservation efforts and upkeep of the environment. The taxes from tourists given to the government also contribute to research of environments and preservation of ecosystems. “In Belize, a US$ 3.75 departure tax goes directly to the Protected Area Conservation Trust, a Belizean fund dedicated to the conservation of the barrier reef and rainforest. (The International Ecotourism Society)” (www.gdrc.org). Tourism also helps raise awareness for the environment and its issues. Tourists learn more about the environment when they are in it themselves and helps tourists to learn about the impact they cause. It also helps fund the rebuilding of reefs, an attraction many tourists visit each year. By having tourists funding coral rebuilding it makes reefs bigger, which brings more tourists, which then funds even more coral reef building; a cycle of funding for conservation. It creates more habitat areas for fish which increases the biodiversity of the reef, creating a more healthy ecosystem.

There are other forms of tourism that help conservation efforts. Ecotourism is a main form of this. Ecotourism and its main goal is to be sustainable. It takes people directly into the environment and educates on how to lower one’s carbon footprint. It also directly funds conservation efforts. But even though there are good intentions, problems could arise. By having tourists directly in environments where native animals reside, it could cause distress in these animals and also changes in behavior from being so close to humans. Well meaning tourists could start to feed the animals causing them to be dependent and seek out humans for food. The increase in foot traffic could erode areas where the tourists travel. Although the entire point of ecotourism is to reduce the impact on the environment to a minimum. Ecotourists are advised to pack lightly and pack things that can be washed easily. They be careful of every impact they make even down to the type of soap they use at hotels. If every tourist were to adopt this manner of thinking, there could be a bigger reduce in negative environmental impacts.

The articles I have used have their strengths and their weaknesses. The information I got from the GDRC (The Global Development Research Center) seems reliable, but the article has no author cited, which weakens it greatly. The GDRC is a non-profit organization the carries out research. This makes the article more believable. I feel this article was a bit weak. The next article I used came from the Coastal Wiki. Despite the name of the website, the information is provided by marine experts. The article had many references to refer to the information they used, which made the information more believable which is a big strength. The website is hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) which makes the website more reputable, adding to the strength of the article. The article also had plenty of statistics and some charts showing impacts of tourism in different areas. This article, I believe, is very strong. The next article comes from Green Global Travel.

It states the purpose and principles of Ecotourism, even providing resources for more research. Green Global Travel is a company the provides Ecotourism and destinations for Ecotourism. This makes the article more believable because it’s written by providers and experts of Ecotourism. It also provides a brief history of Ecotourism and how it came to be. This article seems strong for the subject it discusses. The next article comes from the Smithsonian Institution. This source is recognizable and reputable, which strengthens the article. The article gives information on corals and even gives resources for more information, adding to its strength. The article doesn’t really argue anything as with the previous articles, so bias isn’t really applicable. The article even provides information on the researchers, which is a huge strength. The article is strong in my opinion. The next article comes from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The article is very short, only two paragraphs. This certainly weakens the article. The article is hosted on a site that seems reputable so it make is more believable. The article does seem weak in my opinion, because of its shortness and lack of author cited. The next article comes from Marine Insight, which seems to be a website for marine engineering and navigation resources. The article seems to have reliable information, which is a strength. The article is written by Smita Singla who is a professional writer, but she does not have any qualifications in marine areas, citing it only as an interest, which weakens the article a bit but also shows that she has an understanding of it by researching the subject herself. I feel the article is strong in its subject but weak in it qualification.

This is an important subject for me. I live very close to beaches that are constantly being visited. Pollution is a huge issue for the place I live in, especially in the Indian River Lagoon. A lot of tourists either don’t realize the impact they have on the environment or they don’t care. It’s important for people to be educated on the subject and see how they directly impact the environment they visit. I feel that educating people and providing alternative ways of tourism would help alleviate the stress we put on our environment by making people mindful in what they do when they visit coastal environments. I have experience with cleaning up beaches and lagoons, and finding how much trash is dumped and how much it affects marine life makes the subject personal for me. I really want to have people see how much they impact the environment.

I feel this was a strong subject for me to pick. I feel that tourism is a complicated industry that affects multiple things. I wanted to also have my essay look into the economic impact of tourism, but that would have been too much to talk about. I was excited for this project, and I was excited to show a subject that, I feel, isn’t talked about as much. Tourism has its benefits and detriments. On one hand tourism helps fund conservation efforts, but on the other tourism causes a lot of the pollution that makes it so conservation efforts are a necessity for the environments people visit. It’s a cycle that’s hard to find a solution to. The best solution we have is Ecotourism. In my opinion most forms of tourism do more harm than good, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

WORKS CITED

Lal Mukherjee, Abir (2018): Impact of tourism in coastal areas: Need of sustainable tourism strategy. http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Impact_of_tourism_in_coastal_areas:_Need_of_sustainable_tourism_strategy
What Is Ecotourism? History/principles Of Responsible Travel AuthorGreen Global Travel – https://greenglobaltravel.com/what-is-ecotourism-10-simple-steps-to-more-sustainable-travel/
Corals and Coral Reefs https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/corals-and-coral-reefs
Pollution Can Smother Coral Reefs, Lower Water Quality, and Make Corals More Susceptible To Disease
Florida Sanctuary – https://floridakeys.noaa.gov/corals/pollution.html
Effects Of Noise Pollution from Ships on Marine Life Smita-SmitaSmita Singla – https://www.marineinsight.com/environment/effects-of-noise-pollution-from-ships-on-marine-life/

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