How Marine Conservation and Tourism Can Save Our Planet

Learn about solutions in marine conservation to combat and reserve climate change according to leading ocean experts and conservationists.

Marine conservation is a key solution to reverse climate change and restoring the carbon levels in our atmosphere according to Project Drawdown. The ocean provides livelihoods for tens of millions of people and regulates both our climate and our weather. 11 million tons of new plastic enters our ocean every year, the equivalent of one New York City garbage truck full of plastic being dumped straight into our ocean daily. And plastic is just the tip of the iceberg.

Agricultural runoff, wastewater, and overfishing are creating dead zones all over the world. 90% of all of our fish stocks around the globe are either overfished or fish to capacity. And then there’s carbon. Climate change is leading to melting glaciers, the formation of superstorms, sea levels rising, and severe, unstable weather. It’s all ocean-related.

“Nature is incredibly resilient and the ocean, in particular, has an astounding ability to renew itself. If we give it a chance, I have seen it with my own eyes, from the sleepy fishing village of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to the beautiful, protected reefs of Belize and even in the Marshall Islands, where after 60 years nature was able to come back from total nuclear destruction to not only beautiful but thriving,” Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, an explorer and journalist at EarthEcho International shares. “It’s not just about a sustainable ocean, we want a rejuvenating ocean. One that is healthier, more bio-diverse, and more productive than the one that we have today. Restoring nature to its once-thriving state and talking about how travel and tourism can help us achieve that.”

Marine Conservation
Mother manatee and calf swimming.

Education Through Tourism In Marine Conservation

Travelers must understand and witness the environmental ramifications of their experience. Dr. Dune Ives, Managing Director of Lonely Whale says that when she travels, she often feels as though issues are out of sight and, by extension, mind, “I’ve noticed when I travel internationally, the problems are hidden from me. I don’t see them. I don’t see the plastic on the beach at the resort where I’m staying, because it’s cleaned up before I wake up.”

If we don’t see the issue, it becomes harder to convince ourselves to be involved and value a vacation that prioritizes the environment. Daniela V. Fernandez, Founder, and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance says that “Oftentimes tourists go into specific areas, not really understanding the destination and not really having that insight as to how to behave, how to interact with their surroundings. There’s a lot of responsibility that locals can take, that tourist spots can take, to provide that education.”

Jamal Galves, a Belize Manatee Conservation Program Coordinator at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute Belize shares how tourist fishing charters off the Belizean coast include education on the history of the place and the marine damage that has taken place as a result of our planetary state. “I pride myself in education with tourists. We work very closely with our stakeholders, which includes the tour guide association, and providing critical information to them so that when they’re doing a tour it’s very informative. As a result, travelers understand the impact that they’re causing the environments they visit,” Galves says.

Marine Conservation
Bawah Reserve, a Regenerative Resort in the Anambas Islands, Indonesia

Collaboration Is Key For Marine Protected Areas

Collaboration is key in marine conservation to meet the universal goal of 30 by 30 or protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 to become a reality. “Collaboration is a four-letter word. It’s hard. It’s not easy at all. It takes being able and being willing to truly let your ego go. And that is hard to do just in everyday life, as an individual. And it’s hard to do in the NGO space, in the corporate space. But I think first and foremost, collaboration is key,” Dr. Dune Ives shares.

Whether this collaboration manifests in large or small partnerships across governments, NGO’s, locals, and/or various other stakeholders, the exchange of information proves instrumental, as Paul Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Bawah Reserve describes when the World Wildlife Fund recently audited the hotel, “In this partnership, this is something that’s not just a nice certificate and plaque on the wall. We’re actually working with them in certain parts of Indonesia…having this blue initiative so we can spread knowledge and learn from each other. Fishermen sons are now the ones who are our boat drivers and driving the guests around and showing them where the best coral is and the best locations, as opposed to trying to blow it up, or overfish it as what they were doing many years ago. Our marine protected area is very ambitious. We have to chase away, larger fishing vessels that come to close, but we’ve done a good job so far. The fish stocks over the past 10 years before the inception to when we opened compared to this year, has recovered phenomenally.”

Marine Conservation
Youth leaders part of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) cohort during Our Oceans Conference in Norway 2019

Youth Are The Future

Solving the climate issue comes down to a mentality shift. That mentality shift comes through taking ownership and responsibility for where we go from here. When Daniela V. Fernandez was only 19, she saw her vision for the Sustainable Ocean Alliance.

“When I saw what was being said at United Nations meetings. I said to myself, why aren’t young people being included? This is our future. We are inheriting it. We need to make sure we’re part of this discussion. What SOA is instilling in the younger generation is the ability and mindset of being able to take problems that are happening in your backyard and find the solution to it. How can we as an organization to help you turn that solution into actionable items, how we help you build campaigns? It really comes down to instilling that sense of belonging, that sense of entrepreneurship and young people, which I think starts from a very early young age,” Daniella V. Fernandez shares.


If you missed the Marine Conservation panel at the Regenerative Travel Summit, you may rewatch the recording here.

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