As climate changes and population and consumption expand, marine life faces many of the same challenges as terrestrial species. Marine protected areas (MPAs) act like oceanic national parks, but most marine habitats and organisms lie outside these areas.
Charlotte Moritz, of IUCN Maldives, and colleagues wondered whether tourist resorts could provide complementary oases for coral reef species. Focusing on the North Ari Atoll, Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, the authors modeled the effect of three management regimes, one based on tourist-resort approaches, on the diversity and abundance of commercial fish species, echinoderms, benthic cover, and coral disease. They found a positive “resort effect”, with better results for less mobile species, such as sessile benthic ones. In theory and as their name suggests, eco-friendly resorts have the potential and obvious incentive to provide small, de facto protected areas for marine species. Complementary strategies for sustaining marine ecosystems in the face of growing and more-intensive threats are welcome, even if they are no substitute for extensive set asides and coordinated efforts.
photo: arvid97, CCO
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I very much agree with Charlotte Moritz, of IUCN Maldives... tourist resorts could be included in strategies to protect sensitive marine ecosystems and promote aquatic biodiversity and abundance of commercial fish species, echinoderms, benthic cover, and coral disease. Such a strategy is win-win… eco-friendly resorts have a vested interest in protecting areas that attract guests; communities proximate to eco-friendly resorts gain economically; and, visitors from around the world have a special opportunity to visit unique marine and coastal environments. Marriott Corp., Hilton Resorts, and several other global companies with large destination resort portfolios can play an important role in defining strategies for sustaining and monitoring marine ecosystems in the face of human and natural threats.
I would go further and suggest that all tourist operators at or near the coral reefs should be levied to pay an annual licence fee for the benefit of the reefs from which they derive economic (tourist) benefits. This funding could go to then protecting the reefs. Further, an education program regarding the protection of the reefs should be mandatory fro all such organisations and their staff.