Coral Reef Pollution Can Hurt Bermuda's Tourism Industry

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Environment and Development in a Global Perspective

State of the Environment Report

Coral Reef Pollution Can Hurt Bermuda’s Tourism Industry


Waste management techniques in Bermuda have adverse effects on the coral reefs and can hurt the island’s tourism industry. This is a state of the environment report on the islands of Bermuda that serves to shed light on the pollution of the coral reefs due to waste management problems and the subsequent potential adverse effects it can have on the Tourism industry. I actually used to live in Bermuda during the period of 2006 to 2010 so I would like to think that I have gained valuable insight into the social and human development threats that this pollution problem poses to the general population. The tourism industry is the 2nd largest industry in Bermuda and is already in decline so it should be one of the island’s top priorities to maintain or even rebuild tourism to its former self. This report consists of three main parts. Firstly, a description of the environmental issues affecting the coral reef communities around the island. Secondly, a description of the human development issues and socioeconomic effects that the degradation of the coral reef community has or will most likely lead to on the island. Lastly, the report explores some proposed remedies for the environmental issues.

State of the Environment

For over a century, heavy metal waste from the islands of Bermuda has been stored on the shores of a large natural harbor called Castle Harbour. It is located between the north eastern end of the main island and St. David’s island and it just happens to be a mere two hundred meters away from the nearest coral reef community. Most of the waste being dealt with is from the population itself. There are about 67,000 people living on the islands and it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. (Central Intelligence Agency) All of the country’s solid waste and scrap metal are either dumped at the site in Devonshire to be incinerated or stored at Castle Harbour, also known as the ‘airport dump’. “Bermuda has been disposing of waste at the airport dump for nearly 40 years with little thought of the impact on the environment,” read a 2010 article in the local newspaper, the Royal Gazette. (Bardgett, 2010) Figure 1 shows a portion of the Castle Harbour site and really gives you an appreciation for the proximity of the waste to the water itself. As you can imagine there is not much land flow acting as a buffer before pollutants leach into the ocean.

Figure 1. Old cars stacked at the Castle Harbour ‘airport dump.’ (Bardgett, 2010)

In addition to cars, appliances such as refrigerators release harmful chemicals like anti-freeze and oil into the ocean surrounding the Harbour. These chemicals have already caused irreversible damage to the coral reef and are having a notable effect on the black grouper fish population (Bardgett, 2010). It is worth noting that the coral reef in the area has already been through irreversible sedimentation damage in the past from a dredge and fill operation that occurred 60 years ago. Since the 1970s, there was a decrease in percent cover from 12% (Dryer & Logan, 1978) to 2% and is not completely gone only because the brain coral Diploria labyrinthiformis was sediment tolerant (Flood, 2004). In Castle Harbour sedimentation is chronic so this new threat of chemical leakage is a blow to an already wounded environment. Figure 2 shows a brain coral from Castle Harbour that has been damaged by sedimentation. The dimple type formation is characteristic of sediment damage (Flood, 2004).

Figure 2. Dimple formations on brain coral affected by sedimentation at Castle Harbour (Flood, 2004).

Unfortunately, in addition to the sedimentation and the chemical leaching, the coral reef colonies are also subject to pollution from raw sewage. Bermuda does not have a sewage treatment plant. The island itself is made...
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