Saving Reefs From Misuse
Contact: Eileen Weckerle, The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
Phone: 415-834-0900 ext. 315
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
San Francisco, CA – May 25, 2007 – The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) today announced the release of their Voluntary Standards for Marine Recreation in the Mesoamerican Reef System. This guide provides marine tourism businesses, bulk purchasers of visitor excursions, and tourists with tested standards that will prevent recreational overuse and misuse of coral reefs.
“These are the first set of marine tourism standards to apply to an entire region. The Mesoamerican Reef is a single ecosystem spanning four countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. CORAL involved every group that uses this reef in the creation of these standards and then field tested their efficacy,” says CORAL Program Director Rick MacPherson. “These standards are affordable, attainable, and effective.”
In areas of high-volume tourism, such as Mesoamerica, repeated direct contact with the reef poses an immediate threat. Hundreds of boat groundings and hundreds of thousands of tourist interactions each year reduce sections of coral reef to rubble. Human contact also reduces coral’s resilience to other stressors such as rising sea temperatures and diseases.
Sergio Rivera, Environmental Manager for Scubacaribe in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, says, “Since our dive shop has been involved in the standards project, my staff has become more environmentally and safety conscious. Now we provide environmental briefings before every dive and equip every BCD [the inflatable jacket a diver wears] with sound devices to ensure location of divers who get separated from the group.”
The standards provide detailed requirements for environmentally friendly and safety-conscious marine tourism businesses in the areas of diving, snorkeling, and boating, and can be used by a variety of different groups such as:
• Concerned tourists to help them choose sustainable and safe marine excursions
• Marine Tourism Businesses to evaluate their own practices
• Non-governmental Organizations and governments as a basis for creating standards in their area
• Bulk purchasers such as cruise ships to select sustainable and safe business partners
Hearing of CORAL’s success in Mesoamerica, government and business groups in Maui, Hawaii, have also engaged CORAL to develop similar standards.
With more than eleven years of field experience, CORAL is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the health of coral reefs by uniting ecosystem management, sustainable tourism, and community partnerships. Find out more at www.coral.org.