Coral Reefs and Tourism

The tourism industry plays a vital role in protecting reefs

Currently an estimated one million new divers are certified each year with millions more snorkelling worldwide on coral reefs. While the expansion of global coral reef tourism has resulted in growing concern about associated environmental impacts, well-managed tourism can lighten the load reefs have to carry.

Dive and snorkel operators are uniquely positioned to enact positive, lasting changes within their communities and among customers. By educating and empowering them to use alternatives to unsustainable practices, we can develop a sustainable tourism industry and protect local marine habitats. That’s why the Green Fins initiative works with the global marine tourism industry and its governing bodies to drive environmentally friendly diving and snorkelling practices.

By supporting the diving and snorkelling industry in its sustainability journey, Reef-World hopes to inspire a shift towards sustainability; making sustainable diving the social norm globally.

Research shows that businesses who have adopted Green Fins show measurable improvements in their environmental practices and a reduction in damaging contacts made by their divers (Hunt et al., 2013 and Roche et al., 2016)

Coral reefs are invaluable

Coral reefs are some of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet.

As well as acting as the building blocks of entire marine ecosystems, coral reefs provide us with a lot of ecosystem benefits including:

  • Seafood creating food security for entire communities,
  • Employment for thousands of people through fishing, tourism and more
  • Providing the first line of coastal defence from storms, protecting the land
  • Many new medicines which are being developed to treat cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses, and;
  • According to The Nature Conservancy, “on-reef” tourism, such as scuba diving, snorkelling and marine wildlife viewing, generates around $19 million per year globally.

Coral reefs are threatened

Currently, 75% of the world’s reefs are threatened. According to the World Resources Institute, by the 2030s, more than 90% of the world’s reefs will be threatened by local human activities, warming and ocean acidification. Projected increases in tourist numbers visiting reefs will further threaten them through preventable, irresponsible business practices and tourist behaviours.

Since coral reefs are facing significant and immediate threats, reducing direct local threats (such as diving-related damage) is critical to make them more resilient. This leaves coral reef ecosystems stronger and healthier for a more hopeful future.

Through Green Fins, 600+ marine tourism businesses have committed, complied with and shown demonstrable improvement in 15 key areas related to negative environmental impact.

The Good News

Coral reefs are remarkably resilient; by removing direct threats posed by marine tourism, reefs are better able to survive wider stressors, such as the effects of climate change.
There is hope for their survival if we take action now.