More than half of the coral reefs in the world have died in the last 30 years, as temperatures and pollution have increased worldwide. But corals can come back from the dead, a possibility that has led many scientists, governments and travel companies to get started and reverse the trend of reefs becoming water graves.
The world's first hurdle in saving coral reefs worldwide is showing travelers that the reefs have not been completely destroyed, a narrative that some mainstream media claim. While the industry stages a sensitization campaign for the reefs, many brands have also revived the movement to ban disposable plastics that harm coral in recent years.
Estimates vary, but The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Virginia, claims that coral reef tourism is worth $ 36 billion annually. This number does not include the billions of dollars that reefs generate for other sectors such as fisheries and pharmaceuticals.
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Some countries and states recognize that they can not afford the revenue Losing coral reefs. The Australian government announced earlier this year that it will invest $ 500 million in the Great Barrier Reef to protect the 64,000 jobs that rely on the reef, improve water quality and finance more reef projects. The Governor of Hawaii signed a bill earlier this month banning the sale of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate, two components that will damage coral and other marine life from 2021 onwards. Hawaii is the first US state to pass such a bill  The government of Belize has decided to impose a moratorium on all new oil wells in its waters in December 2017. Last month, the Belize Tourism Board decided why the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has removed the Belize barrier from its list of World Heritage in danger, a denomination that the reef has had since 2009 ,
The latest global coral bleaching event in 2015 and 2016 opened more eyes to the scale of the problem, causing more governments and companies to act on it. About 29 percent of the shallow water corals on the Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching alone when sea temperatures reached 32 degrees Celsius, the point at which corals start to bleach. The bleaching in 2016 was the deadliest since records began, and the recent tropical storms in Australia also caused coral damage.
"When the first documentary films came out in 2016, we had some big cancellations, especially from the US," said Emilio Fortini, former general director of Lizard Island, a luxury resort on the Great Barrier Reef that recently left the estate. "And since last year we have a bunch of people saying they want to come before everything disappears."
Fortini said some parts of the reef are not affected by the 2016 bleaching. "It's not always as bad as it's portrayed in the media," he said. "The reef is not penniless, we have not had any really hot water since the bleaching in 2016, so many corals are coming back stronger."
Daydream Island, another resort on the Great Barrier Reef, said that travelers wanting to get away with it Visit, have a sense of urgency. "Many tourists tell us they're coming now because they think the reef will be dead in five years," said Jayson Heron, the resort's sales and marketing director. "We are currently advocating moving corals from healthy areas to spread to colonies around Daydream Island."
Remove Plastic from Reefs
Resorts like Lizard and Daydream have the difficult task of increasing the number of people visiting the Great Barrier Reef while reducing the number of disposable plastics they use and leaving behind often floating in the sea or landing on beaches frequented by tourists.
Lizard did without plastic straws last year. "We have just concluded an agreement to get rid of all plastic water bottles," said Fortini. "Last year we started with the introduction of stainless steel bottles for all our guests, and two weeks ago we did not use plastic bottles completely, which cost a lot of time because we also have to look at the commercial aspect."
Daydream said he also wants to ban plastic straws.
Andy Ridley, founder of Earth Hour and CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, a platform launched in November 2017 to track and encourage people around the world to save on waste and energy, To save reefs, said that the current discussion on the ban on disposable plastics is different from previous debates.
It's the first time the mainstream has been dealing with an environmental problem in Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" for more than a decade, "Ridley said." Think about where we're from: 10 to 15 years ago You buy CDs, now we have Spotify. Spotify was not designed to help the environment, but as we now consume music, it's actually helpful to the environment. "
Ridley said that a whopping 91 percent of the world's annually used plastic is disposable." We see more hotels replacing the small plastic shampoo bottles with soap dispensers, "he said." Even some five-star hotels are now betting the soap dispensers. "You no longer pay the cost of making these small bottles."
Costs for Rescue of Coral Reefs
Changing global consumer behavior and removing all plastics from supply chains is far from being one of the biggest challenges for all reef players
Getting rid of plastic would be a splash against the wave of fossil fuels Delivered by airlines, boats, and other vehicles that travelers take to visit the reefs, and millions of others use them every day.
Challenge that Australia is political and economic, that we have a small population, "said Fortini." We have so many natural resources, but it's a very expensive affair, and I do not think a government is ready to get involved in this regard. But Australia is probably still in a better position than other countries to protect the reefs. "
The Great Barrier Reef is probably the healthiest reef in the world, as Australia has protected the reef despite the fossil fuels it still depends on." At the moment, we are thinking about which engines to use for generations to come from boats that are going to the reef, "said Ridley," change will come because of no campaign. This will be a practical way, much like the proliferation of electric cars and solar energy. "
Around 50 percent of Belize's visitors dive at its reef, causing the Belize Tourism Board to launch a project in March Preserve the Belize and Great Barrier Reef. The project, which ran until the end of March, The tourism authority has worked with the World Wildlife Fund to determine how the money could be spent, said Karen Bevans, Tourism Director of the Belize Tourism Board.
Aqua-Aston Hospitality, a hotel group with Forty hotels in Hawaii, California, and Florida are already ahead of Hawaii's upcoming ban on certain sunscreen products, with the company aiming to introduce reef-proof sunscreen dispensers in all 40 homes by the end of 2018. Currently, only eight properties have donors under cost and management arrangements  "Now that we're repeating the budgeting process, we can make sure it has a mandate for the business is, "said Theresa van Greunen, a spokeswoman for the company, which led the donor implementation program. "There are definitely costs that will not be recouped."
Van Greunen said guests receive a small sample of reef sunscreen when they check in, and there is also printed information in each room about the sunscreen and how to have a more sustainable stay
"Many people were unaware that sunscreen could be a form of pollution, "said van Greunen. "You can actually see the luster of the sunscreen being washed off in some parts of the state, and part of the reason we wanted to offer sun protection to the reef is that it's not really available."
Can we turn this around?
About 25 percent of the world's marine life comes either from or depends on coral reefs. Not to mention the billions of dollars behind the tourists' desire to see them.
Some reef advocates like Ridley and Fortini are optimistic because there is little evidence that visiting a tourist in a reef is detrimental to their ecosystem. But of course, the plastic and energy footprints they make are still worrying.
"The people who come and talk to their friends are the best chance we have," Ridley said. "If nobody sees it, nobody will know it, and no one will take care of it." How you do tourism is that you do it in detail. "
While the movement" save the reef "and" ban on plastics " To some extent global, parts of the world, such as Asia, have not caught up with Western countries Understanding the problem
"We need to watch the growth in Asian traffic, which does not necessarily mean the importance of caution," said Fortini.
It is also hard to predict when the next coral bleaching will occur. An event will occur, but some project bleaching could take place every few years until 2030. This should trigger alarm bells for a travel industry that is proud to offer more and more unique experiences just like coral reefs. Article
Photo credit: Coral Reefs received almost unprecedented media attention last year. This Friday, November 25, 2016, Australian Senator Pauline Hanson hears oceanographer Alison Jones, left, as she exhibits a coral piece at the Great Barrier Reef off Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia. Dan Peled / Associated Press