Coral Reef Conservation & Tourism Affection

Don Baker dbaker at
Mon Sep 27 13:25:40 EDT 1999

Dear Fellow Coral Reef Scientists,
For the past 10 to 15 years, I have noticed a tremendous increase in tourism development near, adjacent or right on top of various coral reef ecosystems throughout the entire world. Reefs of my "home town" island of Guam changed before my eyes in a matter of a few short years.  Reefs that originally supported clear water species changed to those species that can tolerate silt and eventually predominated. The "change" of course was the death of the Acroporas and other associated species found more so in clear waters. No doubt, a coral reef certainly does try to stay alive and adapt to man's changes but there are, of course, limitations before the reef ecosystem succumbs.
Movies, TV, scientist celebrities, and tourist marketing have been helping to bring the human masses to the reefs of the world to wonder and ogle at the strange and fascinating marine life. But this has been at a tremendous cost!
Many if not most tourism developments and operations on / near coral reef ecosystems have had serious negative consequences as a result of inadequate human waste & related/associated packaging waste treatment and elimination -[from plastic bags to the horrific cookie & potato chip mini-bags]. Tourists visiting a coral reef shallows in Sabah alone, leave behind a certain amount of glittering mini chip bags dotting the reef - dumped off the boats many times by the boat operators themselves and not so much the tourists.

Rumors have it that large tracts of shallow coral reef flats in Belau, Micronesia have been all but destroyed by unregulated, uncontrolled, ignorant, and often times, outright thoughtless negligence of tourists.  But where were their local guides?
Are some tourist nationalities more conscious than others of the coral reefs' physical fragile nature? Can education be instituted at a level of almost licensing tour guides and making them legally liable for any damages caused by their tourist groups?  Should the "Barb Wire Fence" syndrome be rigidly applied to coral reef ecosystems - Stay Out?  How can tourists still see the coral reef wonders but yet not seriously affect the ecosystem mechanisms?
I would like to get feedback from the Coral List community about this subject, papers, article refs. anything, whereas, this coming Oct, I will be speaking at the World EcoTourism Conference being held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia - Oct 17th to the 23rd.  The subject of my brief talk will be about "How Tourists Can See the Reef and Not Kill It." I will be covering tourist development waste affection and elimination, methods of guidance, tourist supported research & restoration, and alternative ways of coral reef sight seeing.
If you want something said on this is the time for me to quote you this coming October.
Regards to All,
Don Baker
The Director
G16 Wisma Sabah
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
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