December 20, 2008 | Comments 3

Effects of Tourism on Caribbean Reefs

tourismcaribbeanreef-150x1501We associate Caribbean vacations with white sandy beaches, bountiful ocean wildlife, exotic landscapes and thrilling adventure. The Islands have lured millions, and still continue to enamor hundreds every day to come, visit and have a taste of what Caribbean leisure is all about. Of course, tourists are welcome all year round as they are the number one source of income for many locals. However, during the last decade alone, there has been a significant effect on the reef ecosystem surrounding the beautiful islands.

The activity that tourists most enjoy is snorkeling and diving. The underwater scenes are a feast to behold. But these activities have a direct impact on the coral reefs. The reefs are often damage by divers or snorkelers as they attempt to touch the fragile corals. Disturbed sediment can also cause some of the reefs inhabitants to suddenly lose their homes, or could cause sand to go atop precious coral formation. The anchors of motorboats and yachts also cause direct harm to the reef as it destroys the corals and habitats of the species in the ecosystem.

The damage that collecting specimens can do to the reef’s ecosystem may be considered insignificant. The fish may be abundant and the reef may cover miles. But collecting indigenous species without the intention of returning them to the sea is just the tip of the iceberg, especially if you take the time to consider other damages done to the reef as a whole. Also, you might be collecting species that are considered rare or endangered.

With the influx of tourists, resort development or construction is needed to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The increase in sedimentation in the reefs closer to the shoreline has been seen, and forces corals and other species to move farther from the shore. The nutrients that ocean wildlife doesn’t need to survive are often passed into the water as sediment is overturned or eroded into the sea.

Of course, with more and more people coming in to witness the beauty that the Caribbean islands has to offer, the more waste that accumulates in the island. There are a lot of proper waste disposal areas or units around the island, to protect the flora and fauna. But the problem with many tourists is that they do not know how to respect land that doesn’t belong to them. It is not uncommon to see garbage floating around, or sticking to the corals.

Aside from waste, pollution is another problem that the indigenous species of the Caribbean islands has to put up with. Even if most of the islands are not industrialized, there are forms of industry and technology which leaves pollutants in the air, land and sea. Oil, fuel and paint are the most common water pollutants, as well as the sewage that may leak into the sea.

The growth of tourism in an area does have positive effects on the local industry. But we also have to consider what it is doing to the natural resources of the Caribbean islands.

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  1. Great article. Love the message behind it. Conservation is the way to go.

  2. Protecting reefs really important, tourism could harm local environment.

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  1. From Concerned on Jan 14, 2009

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