The biggest “unknown” about the ocean and how it can impact the tourism industry

The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, and frighteningly is facing a possible mass extinction due to fundamental changes in seawater chemistry throughout the world’s oceans.

This blog is the second in a four part series to address four major environmental impacts that are destined to have major impacts on tourism:  climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and inadequate fishery management.

 Ocean acidification is perhaps the most serious problem facing the ocean, in part because the general awareness of the situation so low. In fact, rising ocean acidity can soon challenge our reality of life. Ocean acidification is often referred to as “the other carbon dioxide problem” and is the term given to the chemical changes in the ocean as a result of carbon dioxide emissions. Initially many scientists focused on the benefits of the ocean removing this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, called “carbon sink.” However, decades of ocean observations now show that there is also a downside – the CO2 absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater.

Many marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons are negatively impacted by increasing CO2 levels and decreasing pH in seawater. For example, increasing ocean acidification has been shown to significantly reduce the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons. With impaired ability to build shells, as well as shells dissolving from high acidity, sea life, and its important food supply, is threatened.  The tourism industry could soon be negatively impacted for tourists who travel to coastal destinations to eat local seafood, and often expect to enjoy related sea shell collecting and sea life benefits, when such activities are not affordable or easily possible.

To mitigate these concerns, the Blue Community Program has created twelve strategies to protect coastal habitat and marine environments.  Encouraging trends in ecotourism, sustainable tourism and sustainable development provide hope for making progress toward reducing the negative environmental impacts of travel.  With the necessary reduction of carbon emissions, coupled with tourism industry and consumer awareness and action, hope can exist for a healthier ocean.