71% of our planet is covered by the oceans, housing a world full of life to discover. Unfortunately, rising water temperatures and acidification, loss of marine habitats, pollution, overfishing and unconscious human activity have led to 49% of the marine population being lost in about 40 years.
Daily, many marine species are under threat, and irresponsible maritime tourism dramatically contributes to this scourge. Watching dolphins and whales, swimming with mantas, turtles or whale sharks, snorkelling and diving are all desirable activities for marine life enthusiasts. However, they should be done with due moderation and environmental awareness.
If your next vacation is for a underwater paradise, here’s what you can do to minimize your impact:
Use GoPro responsibly
While using an underwater camera you can get great pictures, you need to use it responsibly. Cameras, especially those used with sticks, can block the marine species’ path, leading to unnecessary stress on the animal.
Do not feed any marine species
Unfortunately, this is a current and highly harmful practice not only for marine species themselves but also for humans. Besides leading animals to associate humans with food, and may increase the number of attacks (particularly sharks), their diet is no longer suitable interfering with their natural feeding cycles and migration routes. Alongside this, it makes them more vulnerable to predators, can lead to injury to both animals and humans and, in the case of reef fishes’ feeding, can lead to overgrowth of algae, their regular food, smothering the corals.
Read your sunscreen label
Before jumping into the water, make sure that the sunscreen you are using does not contain harmful chemicals that can pollute ocean waters and damage coral reefs. Oxybenzone is known to interfere with coral reproduction and growth cycles, culminating in a phenomenon known as bleaching. At the same time, it has been pointed out as harmful to human health, given the great ability to penetrate deep layers of the skin and remain in the body. Ideally, opt for biodegradable sunscreens whose composition uses substances such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They are safer and greener.
Be aware when acquiring souvenirs
If you are an ocean lover, there are souvenirs you should not buy at all or even remove from their habitat. Shells, corals, dried animals, pearls, turtle shells are for sale all over the world in exotic holiday destinations. However, by purchasing them, you are representing and contributing to the threat of the local oceans, species and ecosystems. If you want to have memories, take photos, buy local crafts that do not use these materials and encourage locals to preserve their oceans.
Opt for local accommodation
Whenever a particularly exotic location begins to gain prominence, the tourism industry strikes. Coastal development ravages sea turtle nesting sites and disrupts the surrounding ecosystems, which are already in danger. Instead of checking in at a hotel that belongs to an international chain, choose small, locally-managed accommodation a little farther from the coastline.
Never leave your trash behind
According to the United Nations, at least 800 species worldwide are affected by marine debris, and up to 80 per cent of this waste is plastic. Leaving any residue on the beach or ocean is a massive threat to the entire marine ecosystem. Species often confuse plastic items, such as straws and packaging, with food. Since their digestive systems cannot handle these items, the animals eventually die. A single plastic bag can entangle them, killing them or deforming their growing bodies. So never leave anything behind!
Look for responsible and sustainable agencies
We at The Wanderlust advise you to be proactive and do your research before hiring any agency that promotes marine interaction activities such as observation, snorkelling or diving. If we can all be responsible for our actions, we can make our oceans healthier. Make sure the company you are travelling with follows responsible and sustainable policies.