MARINE ECOTOURISM— OUR SAVIOR
Is it not common knowledge that protecting marine environments is vital to the survival of the diverse species they are home to? Yet even knowing this importance, humanity has still actively played a role in their destruction. Marine ecotourism is a thriving industry offering a variety of activities. Swimming with dolphins and whales, snorkeling with fish, and even viewing the beauty of the ocean from a mermaid’s perspective, are possible. Moreover, marine ecotourism can boost struggling economies and play a key role in increasing awareness about the importance of marine species for local livelihoods. It opens people’s eyes to the beauty of oceans and the need for their preservation, both are under threat of sewage being dumped by cruise ships, poisoning the sea water. Marine ecotourism facilitates the study of these vital environments by modern science, leading more effective protection against those threats. The economic benefits of marine ecotourism for local communities, the raising of knowledge about eco-friendliness, and the resultant reduction of dangers posed to marine species are really obvious. It goes without saying that governments should support this unique type of tourism in order to ensure that it continues to provide both economic and ecological benefits.
Marine ecotourism sustains local communities by not only providing considerable revenue and much-needed job opportunities but also by providing protection for the endangered marine species. The International League of Conservation Photographers (2016) states:“What began as a local economic alternative is today a global industry that generates 50 billion dollars a year and serves more than 120 million tourists. In Mexico, marine ecotourism attracts 900,000 visitors every year to the Gulf of California alone, and generates over 500 million dollars in local income”. This illustrates that marine ecotourism is the lifeblood of many local communities, providing essential economic support, increasing the standard of living, and creating ownership of a sustainable community industry that passes down from generation to generation. Furthermore, during this period of significant economic growth, the whale population boom. The International League of Conservation Photographers (2016) explains: “After gray whales were protected, their population rebounded, and today they generate each year more than six million dollars through ecotourism in the sanctuaries of Baja California”. Additionally, marine ecotourism acts as a much-needed solution to the effects of whaling, the cruel hunting of whales for blubber which is an important chemical compound used in many cosmetic products. This cruel practice, which has collapsed whale populations, has taken place for centuries. Although it has been banned in many countries, it still creates a threat to whales. Whale-watching is popular in the marine ecotourism industry; whale watchers discourage hunters from the pursuit of whales, resulting in the development of whales protection. People shouldn’t downplay the importance of marine ecotourism, shouldn’t ignore what we have done, and shouldn’t accpet overfishing.
The oceans are our home, are the most amazing aquatic scenery on earth, and are the paradise with various species. One only needs a brief blink of the underwater environments, home to the marine ecotourism industry, to realize their stunning scene and the importance of preserving that beauty through eco-friendly actions. Dr. Jackie Ziegler, is an environmental social scientist investigating aquatic environments and natural resources and holds a PhD in the Marine Protected Areas Research Group at the University of Victoria claims “‘Many of the people we spoke to reported they now care about and value whale sharks because of tourism activities. They also expressed the community's emotional connection to the species and the strong need to protect them”’ (Ziegler, as cited in Cambridge University Press, 2020). Marine ecotourism makes known the struggle of marine species such as whale sharks, encouraging positive public attitudes toward the protection of marine life. This is encouraging people who want to take a stand against the savage hunting of whale sharks, killed only for their fins which are then used in shark fin soup in several countries. Whale sharks, at the apex of the marine food chain, maintain the diversity of marine species and prevent overpopulation by smaller predators. They aren’t as threatening as the media portrays. More research and awareness can reveal the true nature of whale sharks and their role in maintaining environments. Empathy for whale sharks and the difficulties they face is one of many important goals of marine ecotourism.
Before the advent of marine ecotourism, rocks and even explosives were utilized by locals in order to prevent sharks from hunting for their natural prey, denying sharks a vital food source and plunging them into a struggle for survival. This selfish practice existed only because locals too ate the same food as the sharks. Widespread ecotourism raised awareness of the sharks’ struggle, causing more people to work towards the protection of species affected by overfishing (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Even though many marine species have been destroyed by human activity, much of humanity is still blind to the fact that the oceans aren’t and should not be placed for dumping harmful trash, continuing to believe that oceans will continue to support our needs. Humanity needs to awake to the fact that marine animals, just like humans, have emotions and needs of their own. Both marine animals and the ocean will feel broken-hearted because of the damages humans made.
Marine ecotourism not only plays a key role in preventing the endangerment of marine species but also sustains the crucial need for marine biologists to gain a better understanding of marine ecosystems. To be more specific, “Oceans need top predators like sharks, healthy reefs are still major drivers of marine productivity, and whales have become a symbol of cultural connection between distant ecosystems and nations” (International League of ConservationPhotographers, 2016). Human activity is a poison that leads to the endangerment of marine species. To counter this, marine ecotourism puts pressure on local communities to invalid overfishing and triggers the realization of the need for marine species research. Should we even need to argue that overfishing has a toxic effect on the survivability of marine species? Marine ecotourism provides pressure on fish industries to face their rash action which actually harmed the food chains they depend on. In fact, after the damage is done, they realize the necessary research into how to rescue the population of whale sharks and other marine species.
Swimming like a mermaid under the sea among coral reefs allows us to rediscover the thriving biodiversity of ocean cultures before the destructive human interruption, persuading many communities which have overfished to stop, reconsider, and take action. There’re several universities that provide marine ecotourism courses for students who are interested in marine biology to help the environment. This should urge people, not just those like me with a strong interest in marine biology and enjoy marine activities but also to care for marine environments in whatever way they can.
Opposing views claim that every type of tourism might cause pollution and damage marine lives. Despite the strength of this evidence, some push back and claim that tourism itself causes pollution, damaging marine life.
“The study also acknowledged the potential negative effects of tourism on the marine environment, such as impacts on the health of local coral reefs and of the sharks. It concluded that further studies were needed to assess these impacts before firm conclusions could be drawn regarding the positive impact of whale shark tourism on ocean conservation” (Cambridge University Press, 2020). One cannot deny that human presence of any kind can result in the pollution of marine environments and have damaging effects on marine life. Despite the truth of this claim, it emphasized that it is also our responsibility to reduce these effects and that “ecotourism” is tourism with a strong focus on protecting the environment. Moving away from the use of pollutive sailing and cruise ships and making people responsible for picking up their own plastic has caused significant reductions in water and air pollution. When considering both perspectives, it’s clear that although any human activity can affect marine environments and species, marine ecotourism, by reducing pollution and overfishing and increasing existing problems’ awareness, has had much success protecting marine habitats, causing far less harm than other forms of tourism. Furthermore, it sustains the economies of local tourist-based communities, resulting in a higher standard of living which passes down through generations.
By observing the economic interests of marine ecotourism, its effects on marine ecosystems, and the benefits it brings to marine biology studies, we can see the positive role that marine ecotourism plays in maintaining the protection of and balancing within marine ecosystems. As modern technologies produce, people more easily pollute our ocean; however, we should prevent this from happening. The environment, whether air, land, or ocean, is our home. We belong to nature and it’s our duty to preserve it. Even using reef-safe sunscreen instead of chemical sunscreen, reduces the pollution in the ocean. Raising consciousness of the benefits of ecotourism is essential, and encourage people to experience it and know they’re doing their part to help. We should all use hashtags to raise awareness about marine ecotourism on social media, pushing governments to take supportive action.
Ecotourism transforms attitudes to marine conservation. (2020, May 5). Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://phys.org/news/2020-05-ecotourism-attitudes-marine.html.
Garrett, C. (2016, November 26). Marine ecotourism for sustainable development the third world — potentials and constraints. SILO.TIPS. https://silo.tips/download/marine-ecotourism-for-sustainable
Marine Ecotourism: The Wealth of the oceans goes well beyond fisheries. National Geographic Society Newsroom. Retrieved May 15, https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2016/10/17/marine-ecotourism-the-wealth-of-the-oce ans-goes-well-beyond-fisheries/.
Tam, C.-L. (2019). Branding Wakatobi: marine development and legitimation by science. Ecology and Society, 24(3). https://doi.org/10.5751/es-11095-240323.
Dougherty E. (2017). Rise of the Reef doctor. From Trustees of Boston University. http://www.bu.edu/files/2017/10/lg_doctor.jpg. Copyright 2017.