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Responsible tourism key if Caribbean holidays are to contribute to coral conservation not destruction

July 7, 2014 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

As a new report raises fears that Caribbean coral reefs could disappear within 20 years, leading ethical travel agent argues this highlights the importance of the role of responsible tourism in environmental protection, and offers advice for travellers to the Caribbean to ensure their holiday contributes to coral reef conservation, not coral reef destruction.

Published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the report suggests that coral reef habitats have declined by up to 50% since 1970. Climate change and over-fishing, leading to key species such as sea urchins and parrotfish being eradicated from the reefs have been cited as the main reasons for the decline, however other local pressures, including tourism, have also been blamed.

The report suggests that all is not lost however, and that with adequate protection the reefs could bounce back. believes this highlights the important role responsible tourism can play in sustainable environmental protection. According to the report authors, reefs protected from coastal development, excessive coastal pollution and damaging tourism practises are much more resilient to the effects of global climate change. And the benefits of responsible tourism do not just come from the direct environmental impacts of reducing waste and pollution, supporting conservation projects and limiting tourism over-development. Managing Director, Justin Francis says “The indirect impacts on the environment are equally important. If we ensure our visit truly supports local communities, responsible tourism can provide local people with an alternate, sustainable livelihoods. This allows fishermen, for example, to diversify their income leading to a reduction in over-fishing and revenues from responsible tourism helps to ensure the reefs are much more valuable when protected and alive.” encourages all visitors to the Caribbean to consider carefully the impacts of their visit on this fragile environment and advises that travellers follow the tips below to ensure their holiday contributes to reef conservation, not reef destruction.

Top 5 tips to help coral reef conservation on holiday. 

  • Do your research – ask to see your tour operator, hotel or dive operators responsible tourism policy and ask questions about how they protect their local reefs. All holidays on have been pre-screened for their commitment to supporting local communities and preserving local environments.
  • Avoid the Caribbean all-inclusives and choose locally run guesthouses and tours with local guides. This way your money goes directly into the local community, not an international corporation.
  • Don’t cruise – rather than confine yourself to a floating hotel choose instead to stay on one or two islands for longer periods of time, eat in local restaurants, shop for locally-made crafts and support local musicians. Your visit will be of much, much greater benefit to local communities, and you’ll get to experience the vibrancy of authentic Caribbean life. Win-win all round.
  • Avoid buying souvenirs made from coral, shells and other threatened wildlife – it may seem harmless but you’ll be encouraging an industry exploiting and destroying the natural world.
  • If you do go diving or snorkelling keep your distance from marine life and look, don’t touch. Even the hardiest looking corals can be damaged by the gentlest of touches. Choose a boat which doesn’t drop anchor into the reef, and avoid feeding the fish which can disrupt natural behaviour.

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