Safety Stops

For those who have followed this blogging journey of mine from the start, we have delved into the world of tourism & the coast for quite some time now. As we head back to the surface, let us take a safety stop to recollect our thoughts and not shoot to any quick conclusions.

I believe whatever was discussed here mostly focused on the negative impact of tourism on coastal environments. I believe most if not all of us have participated in tourist activities which may (directly or otherwise) have had an impact on the cost. I hoped to raise awareness on what we should/should not do so as to be better stewards of the environment.

Reading all your wonderful comments along the way, I’ve realised some of you may have developed an aversion to certain forms of tourism I’ve mentioned such as diving (dive tourism). While I’m glad that you’ve actually read my blog and understood our potential to harm the beautiful underwater rainforests of our seas, we should also embrace our capacity (as tourists) to positively impact coastal environments.

I have always brought up how ironic it is for tourist activities to be destroying the beauty of the place which is the reason why tourists go there in the first place. However… what if these places weren’t frequented by tourists? What if the Great Barrier Reef never made had this amazing human-nature allure to draw people from all over the world to visit it? I would think that developments along the coast (for other economic/developmental reasons) would take over and trample over coastal environments. I say this while knowing the whole Abbot Point coal mine issue because I still believe it to be true.

Tourism is definitely a more favorable alternative than those mentioned above and it creates an incentive to protect the area people wish to visit, educating them to adopt sustainable practices. So go out there and don’t be afraid to travel! We learn how to respect, harness and protect nature by being exposed to it, not by drafting lofty comments from our ivory towers.

Go and find all the crazy places to experience! Adios, JJ

Heading to the Surface,

JJ

 

 

Floating Cities, Drowning Coasts

this is part 2 of the cruise ship series!

So we’ve talked about the noxious polluting capabilities of cruise ships. Now let’s delve further into the impacts it has on the coast.

PortMiamiLook at how the coast is altered to accommodate the cruise ships. Photo taken from eTurboNews

Development of Port Facilities

Cruise ships tourism brings along with them a huge amount of tourist dollars. Coastal settlements seeking to attract cruise ships often conduct dredging activities to deepen the shoreline in order to receive these hulking behemoths. Dredging serves as a double whammy to coral reefs by firstly directly extricating the corals from the seabed and secondly increase sedimentation, increasing water turbidity and starving off corals.

Anchor Damage

To hold these massive ships in place, huge (we’re talking several hundred meters worth) anchors are deployed, crashing on and dragging along coral reefs. The video above shows the anchor of the cruise ship Zenith wrecking the coral reef beneath it.

Cruise Ships and Settlements

Cruise ships bring with them a huge influx of visitors which may overwhelm the local community especially since cruise ship passengers tend to have higher consumptive levels than the local hosting communities (Carić & Mackelworth, 2014). This would lead to an overshoot in the carrying capacity of the area (albeit temporary) in areas such as waste management, leading to the degradation of the surrounding area.

Furthermore, cruise ships are also a source of light and sound pollution, adversely affecting local communities of humans and animal alike, causing issues such as the disorientation of migratory birds (Longcore & Rich, 2004).

Image result for cruise ship coast beautiful

It is a great irony that cruise ship destinations are often beautiful coastal environments teeming with beautiful coastal features such as coral reefs and pristine beaches and yet the proliferation of cruise ships are destroying the very attractions they use to promote themselves.

This seems to be a recurring theme throughout my blogging journey the past couple of months – must tourism always destroy the natural beauty of the things we wish to visit along the coast? I’ll be summing it all up in the final post of my blogging journey so stay tuned!

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Carić, H. & Mackelworth, P., (2014). Cruise tourism environmental impacts – The perspective from the Adriatic Sea. Ocean & Coastal Management. 102. 350-363. 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.09.008.

Longcore, T., Rich, C., 2004. Ecological light pollution. The Ecological Society of America. Front. Ecol. Environ. 2 (4), 191e198.

Cruise ships – Titanic Polluters

Leaving the shores of Boracay, we’ll be cruising into a new topic in this blog post. Touted as floating cities, cruise ships and the industry has evolved from an elite and luxurious form of transport in style to gargantuan floating tourist resorts (Carić & Mackelworth, 2014).

The Symphony of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship (taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa) with a capacity of over 6,600 passengers (and over 2,000 crew). Photo by Royal Caribbean International

I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise – I don’t know how or why I haven’t been on one yet but the idea of relaxing on a huge ship in the middle of the open sea with all the comforts on board really sounds like a good getaway. Cruise ships are often associated with class, romance, elegance (mandatory Titanic shoutout!) – however cruise ships aren’t as pretty as they paint them to be…

they just don’t fit in with the environment don’t they… Source: Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

The Polluting Effects of Cruise Ships

I found this infographic on a The Guardian article I was reading on cruise ship pollution and the statistics were simply appalling – I would never want to go on a cruise ever.

AIDA-Schiff Schwarzer Rauch (NABU/Wattenrat/E. Voss)

It turns out that cruise ships use heavy fuel oil, which are the residual hydrocarbons left over in the manufacturing process of petrol. These heavy fuel are cheaper to burn but are also heavily polluting.

Whilst this heavy fuel oil usage isn’t unique to cruise ships, these floating cities spend a considerable amount of time docked at/along coastal settlements and still operate a whole host of facilities 24/7 – concentrating a large amount of pollution in a small area.

At ports or near coastlines, most countries require cruises to switch to less polluting forms of fuel, but according to the article, the low-sulphur fuel is still 100 times worse than road diesel – posing a health threat to those living along the coast of cruise ship destinations.

Apart from noxious fumes, cruise ships also generate mounds upon mounds of waste, posing a threat to coastal environments when large amounts of waste enter the water untreated/poorly treated (they are touted to be floating cities afterall and yet lack wastewater treatment equivalent to that of cities). Blackwater discharge containing fecal matter and medical waste are introduced to coastal waters, bringing with them a whole host of harmful pathogens and bacteria, threatening human and animal health. Greywater (such as those from kitchen sinks and showers) can contain harmful chemicals and even nutrients which may lead to algal blooms and eutrophication (Carić & Mackelworth, 2014).

While the information presented in this post was not entirely focused on tourism, I felt obliged to share the nasty side of the cruise ship industry with all of you. Cruise ships make up only 13% of the global commercial shipping fleet but generate waste far beyond that of ships their equivalent size (Carić, 2010). Furthermore, cruise ship activities tend to be concentrated along specific coastal areas and present a large, cumulative threat to a relatively small area community (Copeland, 2008).

In the next installment, I will be zooming in further on cruise ship tourism and the relationship/impact it has on coastal environments/cities so stay tuned! 🙂

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Carić, H. & Mackelworth, P., (2014). Cruise tourism environmental impacts – The perspective from the Adriatic Sea. Ocean & Coastal Management. 102. 350-363. 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.09.008.

Oceana report on cruise ship pollution (2004):
https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/cruise_ships_pollution_Jun2004_ENG.pdf

Carić, H. (2010). Direct pollution cost assessment of cruising tourism in the Croatian Adriatic. Financial theory and practice, 34 (2), 161-180. Preuzeto s https://hrcak.srce.hr/53595

Copeland, C., (2008). Cruise Ship Pollution: Background, Laws, Regulations, and Key Issues. Congressional Research Service. CRS Report for Congress. Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress, USA. Order Code RL32450.

Tourism and Island Destinations – Boracay vs Gili T.

As we conclude this chapter on Boracay (for now), I would like to end off this discussion by sharing my thoughts with regards to the Boracay closure and draw comparisons with Gili Trawangan, a popular tourist island destination in Lombok, Indonesia that I’ve recently visited this June!

Video taken in Gili T. ~15m depth – My first ever (baby) shark sighting! Guess it’s species (Hint: look at it’s dorsal fin)

The Issue on Single-Use Disposables

especially on islands…

I personally find Boracay’s move to ban single-use disposables a huge step forward. Isolated island communities like Boracay tend to face a whole host of issues regarding waste disposal by virtue of them being disconnected from the mainland (Eckelman et al., 2014). Now that regulations have been set in a top-down fashion, it is imperative that the locals of Boracay embrace sustainable practices from the bottom up to prevent decay due to mismanagement.

When I was in Gili T., the locals were very vocal about their sustainable practices. At my accommodation, a friendly staff was telling me how they avoid single-use disposables to reduce waste as waste removal was done via modestly-sized boats which were also required to bring raw materials to the island (I didn’t even mention anything about sustainability to him!)

The straw is really hard to see and out of focus. I’m sorry I had my priorities mixed up – the burger looked too delicious!             – Taken in Gili T. June 2018

At dinner during my first night there, I was pleasantly surprised when my drink came with this strange straw. I thought it was edible so I nibbled on it and the waitress who served it to me laughed and told me that it was made of the stem of a papaya leaf (in the subsequent days I found out that the straws were EVERYWHERE).

The best part? Disposable plastic straws aren’t even prohibited by law at Gili Trawangan. The locals themselves believe in the eco-friendly movement started by local dive shops called the Gili Eco Trust which came about after the 1997 El Nino devastated local coral populations.

What about Singapore? We’re an island too right??? Well, we have much to learn as well. On the topic of straws, campaigns like iReject in NUS can help to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Hopefully it doesn’t take an environmental catastrophe before people are spurred into action – we need to make an effort right now.

In conclusion, I hope that the locals of Boracay can appreciate the importance of preserving their coastal environment without the need for authorities to regulate them (since we’ve all seen the inadequacies of the management prior to the closure).

Shown below is a cute video I found on YouTube showing you how straws like the one I used in Gili T. are made! 🙂

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

References:

Eckelman, M. J., Ashton, W. , Arakaki, Y. , Hanaki, K. , Nagashima, S. and Malone-Lee, L. C. (2014), Island Waste Management Systems. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 18: 306-317. doi:10.1111/jiec.12113

Boracay: Soft Opening with Tough Regulations

Hello everyone! Last Friday Boracay reopened again with a whole host of new rules and regulations. Before we begin, you can watch this short video by Channel NewsAsia to see how the coastline of Boracay looks like before the closure! (It’s pretty slow and you don’t have to watch the entire thing)

“Systems will definitely not be perfect… manage your expectations during the opening of Boracay… 6 months is a short time to rehabilitate an island under the state of calamity” – Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines)

It’s definitely shocking to see people swimming in the green muck… So what should we be expecting of post-closure Boracay?

What’s New???

boracay reopens - new rules
New rules to pave the way forward – adapted from Channel NewsAsia

Is anyone else super excited at these prospects!?

Image result for excited gif
Jonah Hill certainly is! (From the movie Get Him to the Greek)

SINGLE-USE PLASTICS ARE BANNED.

NO SMOKING ON BEACHES.

TOURIST NUMBER RESTRICTIONS. 

  • A carrying capacity of 55,000 had been assigned to Boracay and officials are limiting tourist numbers to 19,000 a day – on top of 15,000 workers and a handful of local indigenous people.

And that’s not all! An estimated 400 hotels and restaurants which are non-compliant to the local environmental laws have been shut down.

A 25+5 metre easement line (where no establishments can be built) from the mean high water mark has been drawn to ease pollution and provide larger public beach spaces. While this measure already existed before the closure, stricter enforcement of regulations meant that any establishments found to have crossed the easement line have been demolished.

Illegally connected sewer pipes containing untreated waste have also been removed during these 6 months and the government has replaced the existing cement types with ‘temper-free’ pipes to deter illegal connections.

(Information adapted from Channel NewsAsia & ABS-CBN News)

How will Boracay fare?

Plastics banned, pipes bolstered, people blocked – what could go wrong?

The Inquirer (British tabloid company) reported that “enforcers were confused about how to implement the rules”, pointing out loopholes in the ways the local government aims to manage the 19,000 tourist number since it’s calculated assuming the 6,000 odd tourists entering each day to stay for an average of three days – that means the number could increase if visitors extend their stay.

The Inquirer also noted that some shops and restaurants still use single-use plastics and that trash has been seen piling along the roadside. Some leeway may have been allowed to help phase out single-use plastics gradually – Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda stated that the ban on single-use disposables will only be “strictly implemented” after 2nd November 2018.

Whilst the way has been paved towards sustainability, the local government as well as the people have to work in tandem to bring about real changes on the ground and not just weightless regulations. Hopefully I will still be able to visit a clean and beautiful Boracay in the coming future!

 

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Articles referred from The Inquirer:

Boracay rules not yet in place

As Boracay visitors reach more than 6,000, trash starts to pile

Articles referred from Channel News Asia:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/philippines-spruced-up-boracay-reopens-with-new-rules-10865740

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/philippines-to-rein-in-visitors-to-boracay-island–strained-by-tourism-10786716

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cna-lifestyle/lifestyle/after-makeover–philippines-welcomes-tourists-back-to-cleaner–leaner-boracay-10867158

ABS-CBN Interview with Bernadette Romulo-Puyot:

Boracay: Conform or Coliform!

Let’s head back to the surface again for today we will be talking about the famous beach island resort – Boracay (Bo-Rak-Eye / yes those eyes you use to see with)! I’ve been wanting to go diving there for a while now, but as most of you might know, the entire island of Boracay has been closed off since 26 April 2018. The 6 months closure was due to severe environmental degradation of the local environment but the island is due to open on this Friday, 26 October 2018. Let’s take a closer look at the Boracay case study:

“I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool. There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there because … when he goes back to the plane, he will be full of s*** going back and forth to the restroom,” – Quote by Philippine President Duterte (adapted from the Straits Times)

Untreated sewage tainting the pristine waters Photo by Yukiko Kishimoto

Issues plaguing Boracay

Unplanned, uncontrolled, unsustainable tourism. The carrying capacity of Boracay has been far exceeded, and the lack of stringent management has led to the fouling of the island’s beauty.

The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) states that Boracay generates 90-115 tons of garbage a day but only has the infrastructure to remove 30 tons of it.

Open dumpsite in the town of Manoc-Manoc, Boracay. Photo by: Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

The rest of it is dumped untreated into the sea illegally or finds its way to the open dumpsite in the island town of Manoc-Manoc. The items that make the majority of the rubbish as stated by the DENR are common items used in hotels – single-use disposal plastics.

 

Image result for boracay coliform outbreak
Would you want to swim in that? Photo by: Rhys Buccat, ABS-CBN News

What about all that untreated sewage?  They’re entering the seas, contributing to algal bloom and the many instances of coliform  (bacteria found in fecal matter) outbreaks.

 

The unregulated release of untreated sewage into the sea has led to the death of coral populations since the algae blocks off sunlight from reaching the seabed. Furthermore, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) suggests that unmonitored snorkeling and diving in coral rich areas has led to the severe degradation of coral reefs.

A joint research by Japanese and Filipino scientists found that coral cover in Boracay declined by about 70.5% between 1988 to 2011 with the largest decline between 2008-2011 where the island saw a staggering rise in tourist arrivals by about 38.4% (JICA, 2015)

Image result for boracay diving
An advertisement for diving in Boracay – I’m sure the guy on the left kicked the corals right after this photo was taken. (and probably a hundred more times) Source: https://www.boracayphilippineshotelandtransportation.com.ph/activities/scuba-diving

Want to know the best part? The pristine white sand the island is famous for is made up mostly of coral fragments. So not only are those corals disappearing thanks to improper waste disposal, the beach itself is disappearing as well! Without coral reefs to absorb wave impact, the beach is getting eroded even faster.

What about the people?

Local Philippine news agency ABS-CBN reports that some 36,000 people have lost their jobs due to this closure. It is so sad and ironic that the island had been praised for providing jobs and education for the local impoverished people, and yet the exploitation of the island has led to the desecration of the one thing they needed to protect.

I personally feel that President Duterte’s iron-fisted controversial closure of the island may have just saved it. Even if the measures put in place came too little too late, the closure of such a popular beach destination would have spread the importance of conservation to the entire world.

I will be discussing more on the effects of the closure when the island is once again reopened.

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) report:

https://www.jica.go.jp/philippine/english/office/topics/news/150528.html

DENR Statistics:

https://www.philstar.com/other-sections/news-videos/2018/07/02/1829930/watch-how-much-waste-does-boracay-island-generate

ABS-CBN on jobs lost due to closure:

https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/03/22/18/boracay-shutdown-36000-jobs-p56-billion-revenues-may-be-lost

Sink or Swim

Welcome back to the next installment! Let’s pick up from where we left off…

Look out below!

Remember when I said not to worry about not having any diving experience? While it is corollary that a lack of experience and a general lack of diving competence will lead to more contacts with the reef, you can try to minimize that by starting off your diving journey by going to dive operators under certifying associations like PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) who ensure divers are assessed on their environmental awareness as part of the Open Water Diver course. Skills taught (and tested) like the ‘5-point Descent’ helps divers to be aware of their surroundings when descending instead of plummeting right into the seabed as they descend.

However, in scenarios where tourists inexperienced in diving make the impromptu decision to go SCUBA diving, they often do not have the time to pick up a 3 day Open Water course and may decide to ‘wing it’ and participate in a 1 day leisure dive instead. Whilst most dive operators frown upon such letting inexperienced divers into open waters, I found that smaller dive shops do not check your diving qualifications; perhaps to make a quick buck.

What can we do as tourists?

By making the right decisions! Although it may be expected that overall experience and underwater competency will affect coral reef contact rates, studies have shown conflicting results on whether divers with greater experience actually had lesser contacts with the reef (Lucrezi et al., 2013). That is, experienced divers are still hurting the reefs!

Studies have shown that the more influential factor in reducing contact rates seemed to be divers’ attitude and dive guide intervention (Barker & Roberts, 2004; Lucrezi et al., 2013). If you’re not confident with your buoyancy control, the choice is yours to make – to stay further away from coral reefs or risk damaging it.

I really recommend reading the study by Barker & Roberts (2004) if any of you are interested in how divers can damage corals because it really reflects what I’ve noticed when I’m out diving as well. Their study also found that divers taking photographs underwater lead to a significant increase in contact rates with the reef when they try to steady themselves for a shot.

Gems like this Maldivian Sea Sponge I stumbled upon can hide among coral reefs – it is NOT WORTH destroying it all just to bring home a photo of it

My dive guide when I was diving in the Similan Islands, Monja, always made it clear to the divers following her group to never touch the reef. She would instead identify non-living objects underwater, such as rocks, and hold onto it before signalling us to grab onto her elbow if there was anything interesting to look at hidden within the reef (even though we were pretty decent at buoyancy control, Monja is on a totally different level) – choose who to dive with carefully!

The message I would like to convey is that we as tourists ought to pay more attention to how our actions can affect the environment. Divers tend to act more responsibly underwater when they have a preexisting affinity for the place (Roche et al., 2016) and I could really feel it when interacting with the Thai crew on the liveaboard I was on. I hope that this responsibility extends to all places and as visitors, we should be even more respectful and not desecrate what others have let us visit.

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

Dive tip of the Day: 5 Point Descent – Remember the acronym ‘SORTED’.

  1. Signal your buddy that you’re intending to descend
  2. Orientate yourself – Take a quick look at your surroundings and what’s below you
  3. Regulators on!
  4. Time – check it!
  5. Empty your buoyancy control device (BCD) & prepare to equalize
  6. Descend!

References:

Lucrezi, S., Saayman, M., & Merwe, P. V. (2013). Perceived Diving Impacts and Management Implications at a Popular South African Reef. Coastal Management, 41(5), 381-400. doi:10.1080/08920753.2013.822278

Barker, N. H., & Roberts, C. M. (2004). Scuba diver behaviour and the management of diving impacts on coral reefs. Biological Conservation, 120(4), 481-489. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.021

Roche, R. C., et al. (2016) “Recreational Diving Impacts on Coral Reefs and the Adoption of Environmentally Responsible Practices within the SCUBA Diving Industry.” Environmental Management, vol. 58, no. 1, July 2016, pp. 107–116., doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0696-0.

 

Keep your fins off my bed!

Welcome once again to another subsurface adventure! Sorry for the long break – the mid-term exams had me drowning on dry land! In the next few posts, I’ll be discussing the most exciting topic yet – SCUBA diving (& its impacts)! I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz from my classmates about wanting to go diving so I’ll be feeding your curiosities by throwing in bits of fun facts and skills for those of you out there who just can’t wait to hit the waters 🙂

Did you know? SCUBA is actually an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. 

How crowded is it underwater?

Not surprisingly, beaches and coastal areas are the number one tourist destinations (Houston, 2008) and unrivaled in terms of sheer tourist numbers as well as income generated (Huang and Coelho, 2017)

The allure of the underwater world, brought to light perhaps through advances in underwater photography technology as well as globalisation, has lead to the rapid proliferation of the SCUBA diving industry (Buckley, 2004). Each year, about a million people become certified divers (Garrod and Gössling, 2008) and there are still some who may pick up diving without going for certification courses (and this in itself is a concern to be explained later on).

SCUBA diving tourism can lead to significant impact on coral reefs. Studies by Zakai and Chadwick-Furman (2002) showed that the percentage of coral colonies damaged by divers differed between dive sites in Israel – the ones with heavier traffic (> 30,000 dives/year) had over 66% of its corals damaged whereas the ones with less traffic (~4000 dives/year) had only 8% of its corals damaged.

SCUBA Divers: D(r)ive by?

So we’ve talked about how corals reefs are important coastal features and briefly touched on how they are being threatened; as if the one-two punch of ocean acidification and rising sea level temperatures (among the plethora of other factors) aren’t enough, divers are quite literally kicking them while they’re down!

Barker and Roberts (2004) conducted a study of 353 divers in St. Lucia and found that 261 (73.9%) of them contacted the reef at least once during a dive. Of which, 81.4% of reef contact were due to fin kicks – often caused by improper swimming techniques, poor buoyancy control and plain ignorance. In the same study, it was found that 80% of contacts resulted in minor damage (i.e. scrapes) and 4.1% resulted in major damage (i.e. breakage).

According to the US National Marine Sanctuaries, touching corals increases the risk of transferring pathogens to them. Furthermore, kicking the corals can result in lesions in the corals’ tissue membrane, resulting in a greater risk of disease (Hawkins et. al, 1999).

three images showing the progression of the disease in a coral colony
The same diseased coral over a 1 month time-frame. Photos: Brian Reckenbeil/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

In light of what we have just discussed, some of you may be apprehensive to go diving – especially those of you who have not done so before (what if I end up kicking and killing all those corals right??). Fret not, for in the next post I’ll be discussing more on how tourists/divers as well as the local community can reduce the impact of dive tourism on coral reefs.

 

Heading to the surface,

JJ

Anyone up for an adventure? taken in Similan Islands, Thailand

Dive Tip of the Day: Mastering your buoyancy control is crucial – it helps you to save air, feel more relaxed, stay off the seabed and most importantly you can maneuver through those cool and exciting swim-throughs!  

References:

Buckley, R. (2004). Skilled commercial adventure: The edge of tourism. In New horizons in tourism: Strange experiences and stranger practices, ed. T. V. Singh, 37–48. Wallingford: CABI.

Barker, N. H., & Roberts, C. M. (2004). Scuba diver behaviour and the management of diving impacts on coral reefs. Biological Conservation, 120(4), 481-489. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.021

Garrod, B., and Gossling, S. (2008). Introduction. In New frontiers in marine tourism: Diving experiences, sustainability, management, ed. B. Garrod and S. Gossling. Amsterdam: Elsevier

Hawkins, J., Roberts, C., Tom Van’t Hof, De Meyer, K., Tratalos, J., & Aldam, C. (1999). Effects of Recreational Scuba Diving on Caribbean Coral and Fish Communities. Conservation Biology,13(4), 888-897. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/stable/2641703

Houston, J. R. (2008). The economic value of beaches – a 2008 update. Shore and Beach, 76(3):22–26

Huang, Y., Coelho, V. R. (2017). Sustainability performance assessment focusing on coral reef protection by the tourism industry in the Coral Triangle region. Tourism Management,59, 510-527. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2016.09.008

Zakai, D., Chadwick-Furman, N.E. (2002). Impacts of intensive
recreational diving on reef corals at Eilat, northern Red Sea.
Biological Conservation 105, 179–187.

Rainforests of the Sea

Colourful, vibrant and teeming with life, coral reefs are often dubbed the ‘rainforests of the sea’. Just like rainforests, they support a great amount of biodiversity, contain valuable resources, and of course – they too are being threatened by our actions.

I wanted to show you the corals but there are just too many fish living there! Taken in Similan Islands, Thailand

 

CORALS 101

Did you know? Corals are made up of many small polyps which produce calcium carbonate – forming the various rock-like structures we associate corals with. Most corals house types of photosynthetic algae known as Symbiodinum – and as their name suggests, these algae have a symbiotic relationship with the corals, providing nutrients in exchange for a place to stay under the sea. (Barnes, 1987)

Corals taken during my dive @ Similand Islands, Thailand (~25m U/W). Can you identify them??

Why are they important?

Here is a good summary taken from the WILDCOAST website:

Despite the numerous benefits corals provide, studies have shown that 60% of corals worldwide are threatened locally by human activities (Burke et al., 2011). Coral reefs can be destroyed by a multitude of different contributing factors. Globally, rising sea level temperatures can cause bleaching events which may kill off corals. On the other hand, different local factors such as sedimentation, improper fishing techniques and pollution can all lead to the dwindling of coral populations.

Tourism & Corals

In my previous anecdote on divers kicking corals (see first post), we see that humans can have a direct physical impact on corals. To get a better picture of the extent of the damage done, we have to look at things step-by-step. From the seemingly puny effect of divers frolicking in the water, we must consider the damage dealt to corals when anchors are dropped by the boats ferrying the divers. The shoreline has to be cleared to make way for docks for the boats as well as ancillary facilities supporting the community sprouting around the economic benefits brought about by tourism.

Corals grow at a rate of 0.3-10cm/year depending on the type of coral, and studies have postulated that a colony of coral larvae could require up to 10,000 years to fully form a coral reef (Barnes, 1987). Considering the sensitive factors affecting coral health as well as the time taken for a coral reef to develop, our coastal environment may change drastically if no effective measures are put in place to reduce coastal degradation.

In the next post, we will discuss more on how tourism – specifically divers – can affect coastal environments.

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Burke, L., Reytar, K., Spalding, M., & Perry, A. (2011). UNEP Report – “Reefs at risk revisited”. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal,22(4). doi:10.1108/meq.2011.08322daa.003

Barnes, R.D. (1987). Invertebrate Zoology; Fifth Edition. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers. pp. 92-96, 127-134, 149-162

Preserving Our Coasts

BRIEFING

Being part of the ’90s generation, I grew up in a time where people started paying more attention to consumerism and environmental preservation  due to the proliferation of new media. Looking back at the holiday trips I’ve been on as a kid, I sometimes cringe at the type of tourist activities I participated in and helped to fund – such as riding on the backs of elephants in some shady adventure park in Thailand. My parents took me there to simply have fun. They were unaware of the insidious effects of our seemingly harmless elephant ride – that it wasn’t just hurting the elephant we sat on, but also endangering the entire local (and regional) elephant population. I believe that education is key – and most tourists would not support such forms of tourism if they knew of the impact of their casual decisions. Similarly, I aim to shed light on how we as tourists can impact coastal environments in hopes of allowing people to make more informed decisions before participating in various types of touristic activities along the coast.

The Beauty of Our Coasts

Mangroves are beautiful in their own rights too! (photo taken during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2018 held by BES students)

After reading the above header you probably have an image of a picturesque sunset along the beach of some exotic getaway in your head! The beauty of coastal landscapes are a given; they are priceless. That’s not just it though – there is beauty to be found in the muddy, swampy mangroves found along the coast as well, and while it is possible to put a price tag on coastal features and ‘calculate’ the economic cost of replacing it with something man-made, often times we just simply do not know the true costs (economic ones aside) of altering our coastal landscapes.

 

Doing my part in getting rid of the rubbish on the coasts of Pulau Ubin!

The importance of maintaining our coastal environments is evident in various examples. The Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) – triggered by an earthquake just off the coast of north-western Indonesia – devastated the nearby coasts of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, India and of course, Indonesia.  It was noted that coasts which had protection in the form of mangroves or coastal forests suffered significantly less damage as compared to coasts which had their mangrove covers removed to build tourism infrastructure. Experiments conducted claimed that healthy & sufficiently dense mangrove forests could reduce the maximum flow of a tsunami by over 90%. (Danielsen et al., 2005)

Mangroves are not the only important things to preserve along the coasts – we will discuss more on the topic of how maintaining our coasts can benefit us in the next dive!

Heading to the surface,

JJ

 

References:

Danielsen, F., Sørensen, M. K., Olwig, M. F., Selvam, V., Parish, F., Burgess, N. D., . . . Suryadiputra, N. (2005). The Asian Tsunami: A Protective Role for Coastal Vegetation. Science,310(5748), 643-643. doi:10.1126/science.1118387