Effects of Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef

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Approximately 1.5 million tourists travel to the Great Barrier Reef (‘The Reef’) each year. While this level of tourism is economically beneficial for the Australian economy it has the potential to have an impact on The Reef and its fragile environment. This impact can be of biological and social significance.

Potential causes of biological effects on The Reef include:
• Coastal or island-based tourism development. Ongoing pollution from discharge of treated sewage and stormwater and loss or alteration of natural coastal areas can elevate levels of nutrients, other pollutants and turbidity changing the make up of water and balance of life within The Reef. • Marine-based tourism infrastructure. Infrastructure (e.g. pontoons and mooring chains) can cause damage to coral. • Shipping and boating. Anchors dragging along the sea floor can damage coral and marine organisms. Litter can harm marine animals if swallowed or entangled. Waste discharge (e.g. oil spills, sewage) can elevate levels of nutrients and other pollutants in the water. • Recreational activities like reef walking, fishing and diving. If care is not taken during these activities damage to coral is possible. In addition these activities generally include the use of boats. Theft of coral and marine life, or over fishing are also possibilities. • Climate Change and Global Warming. Warming of the waters throughout The Reef could result in bleaching and/or death of coral.

These combined effects have the potential to cause significant damage by endangering or killing The Reef and/or the marine animals and organisms that it supports. At the current time it is known that there are already 40 endangered species including the Dugong and Loggerhead Turtle.

However tourism relating to The Reef is a significant industry generating around $5.1 billion dollars for the local and Australian economy annually. So if The Reef was unavailable as a destination there would be...
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