“Once fishing stopped, the fish stock increased by 250% and we saw 25 times as many sharks,” says Andrew Miners co-founder of Misool resort in Indonesia.
Can you imagine a more amazing place to live and work? Take a look at this paradise island surrounded by shimmering reefs, kaleidoscopic fish, vast manta rays and countless sharks.
Biodiversity is all about variety. The natural world has developed complex ecosystems over millennia that are precisely balanced. Huge numbers of different plant and animal species are interdependent. Take away one or two and the whole system can be disrupted.
Take the practice of shark finning which was rife around Misool, seriously reducing the shark populations. Without these apex predators keeping the many species of herbivorous fish under control, there’s a population explosion. Key vegetation that the reef and species lower down the food chain need to survive is overgrazed. It begins to disappear, sometimes with quite catastrophic consequences.¹
Sometimes tourism can have negative impacts on biodiversity: forest is destroyed to build hotels, shorelines are paved for marinas, water courses are changed to supply swimming pools. But increasingly it’s a catalyst for its preservation rather than its destruction.
Luxury ecolodge Satao Elerai is set in 20 square kilometres of preserved land in Kenya. As you’d expect, wildlife numbers have increased inside this area. But key to the lodge’s impact is also its location. Satao Elerai lies between Amboseli National Park in Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania. Its land helps connect these important habitats for elephants who travel between them, maintaining the biodiversity of the wider area.²
Inkaterra is a Peruvian ecotourism company. Each year more than 200,000 tourists visit its seven hotels, close to Cusco and Madre de Dios. Biodiversity preservation has been a key part of its mission since its establishment in 1975. It maintains checklists of key species within its properties, in particular birds and orchids, using a team of naturalists to help protect them.
Destination Flyways is project led by the UNWTO to protect migration routes for millions of birds. During their migration, birds depend upon a chain of sites in multiple countries for breeding, staging and wintering. The sites are often protected, but external pressures continue to grow. By working to develop tourism projects close to them, UNWTO is using tourist income to help preserve this important feature of our planet’s biodiversity.³
As tourists increasingly seek more meaningful experiences with the natural world, tourism which preserves and protects it is flourishing. Snorkelling among coral reefs, spotting wildlife on safari, watching rare migrating birds — all depend on healthy and intact ecosystems. If the species and ecosystems these tourists come to see aren’t carefully maintained, they will stop coming.
As Andrew at Misool says: “We see the health of the reefs and the fish stocks as our key business asset.” Protecting biodiversity makes good business sense.
A major factor in Misool’s success is the marine protection area that surrounds it. They fund a team of rangers to patrol it. Sometimes these kinds of restrictions impact the livelihoods of locals. But in this instance it has been beneficial. The fish don’t know about the boundaries of the protection zone, so they swim out of it. Local fishermen have seen catches increase since its introduction.
¹ Source: http://www.savethesharksorg.com/our-blog/2016/3/9/h4r3zy8sg4rl90mcyj0tmwa46fikpy
² Source: https://www.awf.org/blog/how-tourism-protects-biodiversity
³ Source: http://biodiv.unwto.org/content/flyways