Just like fishers, divers, sushi-lovers and sailors the world over, the World Wide Fund for Nature knows the importance of our oceans, and wants to see them protected and managed responsibly for decades to come. This year, WWF Netherlands, along with many other national WWF offices, is renewing its focus on the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia, along with the North Sea and the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Read on to learn more about the importance of the planet's oceans, the ways WWF is planning to save the last great hotspots of marine diversity, and how sustainable tourism can help out.
Photo via the World Fish Center on Flickr.
A Campaign for the Seas
While WWF Netherlands focuses on nine priority regions, five commodities such as timber, and thirteen species including the Asian elephant, this year the organization has decided to place special emphasis on oceans. Though the plight of pandas and polar bears is well-known, fewer people are aware of the grave situation of the world's seas. Less than 2% of the entire ocean is protected, and only a sliver of those protected areas are properly managed and policed. This leaves some of the world's most biodiverse, beautiful, and irreplaceable marine landscapes open to unchecked pollution and illegal fishing.
At the same time, industrial-scale fishing techniques are emptying the oceans at an alarming rate, robbing fishermen of their livelihoods and setting the oceans on a path to ecosystem collapse. Scientists estimate that between 10 and 30% of the oceans need to be set aside in order to ensure the future of fishing, which provides the primary source of protein for over one billion people.
Retooling Tourism to Benefit Coasts
Besides the fact that marine protected areas protect fish, providing food and jobs, they also attract tourists. Froukje Zumbrink, consultant for the Oceans & Coasts program at the WWF, adds, "in fact, some of the current marine protected areas would not have existed without the tourism industry." Tourism is one of the world's largest industries. A staggering 80 percent of all tourism occurs in coastal areas, which provides over 200 million jobs. With these massive numbers, there's no arguing that coastal tourism needs to be carefully managed to ensure minimal damage to mangroves, reefs and beaches.
Tourist destinations are often woefully unprepared for the large numbers of visitors they receive. Visitors overload ill-equipped sewage and garbage systems, water resources, and energy grids. According to Zumbrink, "Ecotourism and sustainable tourism are misleading terms. Instead of focusing on a specific type of tourism and seeing it as a niche, we would like to transform the whole industry." Destinations, whether explicitly 'eco' or not, should be invested in preserving their natural assets for 10, 50, even 100 years into the future.
WWF Netherlands is one of BookDiffernt's many charitable partners working to protect animals and environment. Zumbrink urges bookers to consider donating to WWF, arguing that "If you want future generations to enjoy beautiful forests, rivers, coral reefs, beaches, elephants, tigers, turtles, colorful fish and other nature and wildlife on their holidays, then donate to the World Wide Fund for Nature." You can learn more about the new oceans initiative at the WWF Oceans page.