When many people think of getting away on a summer holiday, they picture themselves relaxing on a beautiful white sandy beach, with a great blue sea within a stone’s throw.
The harsh reality is though, that tourism is damaging the ocean in numerous different ways, and the vast ecosystem which relies on the waters to survive. From species extinction to reef destruction, scientists are currently predicting that 90% of the oceans coral reefs will have died by 2050, mostly due to human activity.
Robert Woods is here to tell us about some of the biggest problems that our oceans are currently facing. As a fish enthusiast and a nature lover, he set up Fishkeeping World to educate people on looking after fish sustainably and discourages the use of wild-caught fish within the industry.
Overfishing is a very serious threat to the life in our oceans. Whether its fish being taking for the aquarium industry, or the food industry. The Food and Agriculture Organization have estimated that over 50% of marine fish have been fully exploited.
Tourists put a lot of pressure on beach side resorts as food also affects the food chain, and larger predators that lose their food source. The methods which are used for fishing are often damaging too. Bottom trawling destroys habitats, and captures a whole range of fish which aren’t particularly useful in the food industry so they’re killed for no reason.
Tourists are also contributing towards the amount of plastic which is ending up in our oceans. Each summer, the number of tourists hitting the Mediterranean beaches, bring a huge amount of littler with them too. A report released by WWF revealed that tourists cause a 40 per cent rise in the amount of waste entering the Mediterranean, and 95% of that waste is plastic.
This plastic is damaging for all the species which inhabit the ocean, turtles and fish are choking on the plastic, or getting tangled up in waste which enters the sea. Currently, between 1.15 and 2.41 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every single year.
Ocean Acidification is the lowering of the pH in the waters in the ocean over a period of time. The ocean absorbs CO2 which is produced around the world, helping to keep up cooler, but unfortunately making the ocean more acidic.
Over the last 200 years, our carbon emissions have risen considerably, and the pH of the surface waters in the ocean has fallen by 0.1pH. Whilst this might not sound like a huge amount, this is actually a 30 percent increase in acidity which is damaging to calcifying organisms such as corals, clams and oysters. Since these form the basis of many other species diet, this is extremely detrimental to our oceans.
When tourists take flights to reach their holiday destination, this increases the amount of carbon emissions being released which ultimately impacts on the ocean.
Many people choose to go diving or snorkeling when they’re staying at a beachside resort. Often they don’t have any experience in diving and are allowed to swim closely to coral reefs. For example, 93% of reefs in Costa Rica are in danger and tourism is a significant factor in their deterioration.
When tourists touch or break off parts of the reef, corals get stressed and try to fight off the predator which leads to coral bleaching. This ultimately kills the coral off and they no longer contribute to the biodiversity of the reef. Not only does this affect that individual coral, but it also affects other species which rely on the corals to survive.
The vast majority of tourists to visit sunny climates, wear sunscreen to protect their skin from sun damage. Unfortunately the vast majority of regular sunscreens contain lots of chemicals which enter the sea when tourists go for a swim. These chemicals are killing off coral reefs, again through coral bleaching.
An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the ocean each year, damaging reefs, the areas which the most damage are popular tourist destinations such as Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Each of the above points shows how tourism is directly linked to some of the main problems which our oceans are facing; from increased plastic pollution, ocean acidification, and overfishing. Tourism puts huge strain on holiday destinations.
If you want to do something to take action against these effects, make sure that you are a responsible tourist. Here are a few things you can do:
- Take reusable bottles and containers for food rather than buying plastic.
- Choose an ethical sunscreen.
- Make sure any food you eat has been farmed sustainably.