Coastal development problems: Tourism
In many areas, massive new tourist developments have been built - including airports, marinas, resorts, and golf courses. Overdevelopment for tourism has the same problems as other coastal developments, but often has a greater impact as the tourist developments are located at or near fragile marine ecosystems. For example:
- mangrove forests and seagrass meadows have been removed to create open beaches
- tourist developments such as piers and other structures have been built directly on top of coral reefs
- nesting sites for endangered marine turtles have been destroyed and disturbed by large numbers of tourists on the beaches
The damage doesn't end with the construction of tourist facilities.
Some resorts empty their sewage and other wastes directly into water surrounding coral reefs and other sensitive marine habitats.
Recreational activities also have a huge impact. For example, careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing have substantially damaged coral reefs in many parts of the world, through people touching reefs, stirring up sediment, and dropping anchors.
Marine animals such as whale sharks, seals, dugongs, dolphins, whales, and birds are also disturbed by increased numbers of boats, and by people approaching too closely.
Tourism can also add to the consumption of seafood in an area, putting pressure on local fish populations and sometimes contributing to overfishing.
Collection of corals, shells, and other marine souvenirs - either by individual tourists, or local people who then sell the souvenirs to tourists - also has a detrimental effect on the local environment.
The increased popularity of cruise ships has also adversely affected the marine environment. Carrying up to 4,000 passengers and crew, these enormous floating towns are a major source of marine pollution through the dumping of garbage and untreated sewage at sea, and the release of other shipping-related pollutants.
A growing problem
Globally, tourism and related economic activities generate 11% of Global Domestic Product, employ 200 million people, and transport nearly 700 million international travellers per year. These figures are expected to double by 2020, especially in some of the world’s least developed countries.