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Marine ecotourism

Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and also some of the most endangered. The destruction of these biologically rich areas is attributable, in part, to coastal tourism developments. Ecotourists play an important role in the travel industry through the choices they make, as the US-based Ecotourism Society points out. Below are its guidelines on "how to be a marine ecotourist".

Viewing wildlife

l Never surround a single animal or a group of animals; there should always be an area for animals to move away from you

Animals always have the right of way; it is their home

Never touch marine animals

Keep noise levels to a minimum to avoid unnecessary stress

Never harass or chase wildlife for the sake of a better look or an "ultimate" photograph

If you see a marine animal that appears to be in distress or injured, do not attempt to rescue it. Contact the nearest authorities and they will determine the most suitable course of action

Do not litter; if you see any litter pick it up. Many forms of litter have devastating effects on natural ecosystems

Recreational boating etiquette

Make advance navigation plans before departure, and take note of shallow and fragile areas, and the influence of the tide, as low tide can create shallow conditions in otherwise navigable waters

Stay within marked channels, and be knowledgeable of the different navigation markers

Safety first! Carry emergency gear, tell people on shore what you are doing and where you are going, and be aware of upcoming weather patterns

Ideally you should undertake a boating course; this will improve your skills and safety and therefore reduce your impact on the environment

Use mooring buoys where possible, as improper anchorage can damage the environment

Keep a covered rubbish bin on board and ensure that people use it. Dispose of your trash at the marina. Reuse, reduce, recycle

Do not discharge sewage into the water; use the nearest pump-out facility

Never discard fishing lines overboard

Do not drain engine fluids into the water

Snorkelling/scuba diving

Do not touch living marine wildlife, such as coral and other animals

Do not collect souvenirs (shells, coral, etc)

Do not stand or rest on coral reefs

Never harass aquatic animals for amusement

Always be aware of your position in the water and that of your dive gear, in relation to marine animals and the coral reef

Remember to dive safely, in terms of both your own health and that of the marine environment

Review and update diving skills such as buoyancy control, finning and positioning

Do not feed marine animals

The Ecotourism Society, PO Box 755, North Bennington, VT 05257, US (tel: 802-447 2121, fax: 802-447-2122,e-mail:,

Sue Wheat