How climate change threatens Indonesia’s marine tourism

How climate change threatens Indonesia’s marine tourism


Jakarta — While the Earth has only warmed around 0.74 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, this small temperature increase is affecting ocean ecosystems and could impact upon the global marine tourism industry. Coral reef tourism has a global value of US$36 billion per year, according to a scientific study mapping the global value and distribution of coral reef tourism. This study, published by the Marine Policy journal in August 2017, concluded that 30 percent of the world’s reefs are valuable to tourism. Indonesia has a thriving coral reef tourism industry and has also the second largest manta ray tourism industry in the world, with an annual value of more than US$15 million. While coral bleaching events and ocean acidification are well-documented effects of climate change, there are other stressors upon coral reefs that could undermine these valuable tourism industries. Sea level rises, leading coastal erosion, plus stronger and more frequent storms typical of the current climate, smother and destroy coral reef structures. Heavy rainfall cause land-based pollutants and nutrients to wash into the ocean, resulting in algal blooms and a reduction in available light at reefs. Changing ocean currents also affect reefs, by altering the connectivity of geographically distant reefs and water temperature profiles. These changes can lead to a lack of food sources and interrupt reef species ability to breed. If left unchecked, these complex effects could reduce the value of marine tourism significantly as the quality of world-class Indonesian dive sites and idyllic tourism deteriorate. Thankfully a new global partnership to conserve the ocean, announced at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 25, should help address this. This new partnership, Friends of Ocean Action, will consist of leaders in science, technology, business and non-governmental groups, aiming to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources. Individuals can also do their part to minimize the effects of climate change by reducing their carbon footprint. Measures such as driving less, reducing waste and purchasing energy efficient appliances or light bulbs are easy ways to help. Indonesia’s coral reefs can be protected with simple measures such as using fewer garden chemicals that may run-off into the ocean, choosing sustainable sea food and practicing good reef etiquette. For those looking to experience and support the maritime tourism industry of Indonesia, there are 11,000 uninhabited islands and wealth of dive sites to choose from. Visitors can support national marine parks directly by choosing responsible tourism operators and ensuring they pay their park fees. Marine park fees are crucial for minimizing the human impact on marine parks, including by providing local subsidies to preserve the reefs and by educating locals and tourists about reef conservation. The national maritime tourism parks mentioned here include the Komodo National Park; Raja Ampat; Wakatobi; Bunaken National Park and Gili Islands.