How Tourism Impacts Ocean Health: Invasive Species
When we visit magical destinations, we never think about how they are changing in front of our eyes.
However, as tourist activity has increased over the last few decades, many of these beautiful natural wonders have suffered.
One reason for this is invasive species. These are animals and plants that are introduced to new environments either intentionally or unintentionally.
Why We Should Care About Invasive Species
Invasive species can completely devastate local environments. When plants or animals that don’t belong to a natural setting are introduced, there’s no way to know how it will affect the existing ecology.
Ecosystems are extremely fragile by themselves. Before humans began traveling the world, they had spent millions of years growing and developing in near-isolation. This means that the plants and animals of North America or Australia for example had reached a sort of ecological balance.
However, international trade began to change this, introducing new animals to ecosystems that were not prepared to handle them. Some examples include:
-The Asian Carp, which came from Eastern Russia and China but was introduced to North America and Europe as food and pets. The Asian Carp now takes over much of the habitat for native fish in these areas and is pushing out many other species. They are also destroying lakes and rivers making them uninhabitable.
-Cane Toads, which are native to the Americas, but were introduced to Australia to control pests. Cane Toads have a toxic slime to protect them from their natural predators in the Americas, many of which have developed an immunity to the substance over millennia. Yet, animals in their new habitats are not immune to the toxin and many who try to eat the toad are poisoned and killed.
-European Rabbit, which is native to Europe and North Africa was brought to every other continent except Antarctica and Asia. These were supposed to serve as food sources, but instead their rapid reproduction has stressed native plant species and caused soil erosion.
Invasive Species and Tourism
Invasive species are often introduced as a result of tourism—and this can have a number of damaging effects on the beauty of the natural landscape.
The Galapagos is a perfect example. Islands in themselves are especially vulnerable to the introductions of invasive species. This is because unlike major continents or land areas, their ecosystems have been truly isolated.
As stated in The Conservation:
“So far, 1,579 introduced species have been documented on the Galapagos Islands, of which 98% arrived with humans, either intentionally or accidentally. More than 70% of these species have arrived since the 1970s – when Galapagos first became a tourist destination – an average of 27 introduced species per year for the past 40 years.”
This species is changing the way that the Galapagos Islands look–and changing the profitability of the destination along with it.
What We Can Do
Change happens on an individual level, so we need to work together to reduce the impact of invasive species in our oceans.
It is hard to do, but it is definitely possible. Lionfish in the Caribbean serve as a great example. These fish, which were once popular in aquariums only, have now been found in the Caribbean Sea in increasing numbers. They have no natural predators in the area, so they are rapidly changing the ecosystem.
Although, residents recognize the danger of these fish and have decided to do something about it. Hunting these fish has become extremely popular and created an economic boom in some areas. Lionfish can now be found in many markets across the area and even on restaurant menus!
In the long run it’s more profitable to work to conserve the natural landscapes of the world, because destinations lose their profitability when they lose their beauty. If we work together, as the people in the Caribbean have, we can make major changes to make the world a more beautiful place.
This is why Sea Going Green is working with tourism companies to alleviate their negative impacts on the marine environment and empower them to #GoGreenForTheBigBlue.