An Ocean of Benefits [How sustainable tourism can protect marine life in the UAE]
By Abdulla Al Nuaimi, Director of Business Development and Marketing
The United Arab Emirates has a very important relationship with the Arabian Sea. Historically, this nation’s deep connection to pearl diving and seaborne trade spans many centuries – while in modern times a large part of the economy benefits from shipping, fishing, leisure and tourism. Unfortunately, some present-day actions that are practiced unsustainably can create significant hazards to the plentiful marine wildlife and habitats of this country.
A world of abundance
A unique and wonderful living world of dugongs, dolphins, turtles, sharks and whales depend on these regional seas, but such abundance of marine life relies on healthy habitats such as a diversity of coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves. Damage caused by coastal development, unsustainable practices and recreational activities has the capability to threaten the survival of this nation’s diverse marine life.
A Planet in danger
The WWF’s Living Planet Report outlines how much nature we are losing around the world. It shows an overall decline of 60% in species population sizes since 1970, while current rates of species extinctions are 100 to 1,000 times higher than the background rate (the extinction before human pressure became a prominent factor) - Source, Living Planet Report, WWF, 2018
Tourism and marine protection
Globally the tourism sector has enormous potential to become a powerful driver in protecting coastal habitats and marine environments. According to the World Economic Forum, coastal and marine tourism is projected to be the largest value-adding segment of the ocean economy by 2030, with anticipated global growth rates of more than 3.5%. This research indicates both responsibility and opportunity for the tourism sector to make a positive impact as a driver of marine protection.
Today 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably- Source, UNESCO
If we can’t sustain our seas, then they can’t sustain us
A key element of sustainable tourism is the development of Marine Protected Areas. Marine Protected Areas have been proven to be one of the most effective tools for marine management and conservation. These areas involve the protective management of specific natural areas, conserving them for diverse reasons including biodiversity preservation, species protection and natural beauty. In well-managed Marine Protected Areas, endangered species, coral reefs and beautiful beaches can flourish without danger to their health and existence.
All our economic activity ultimately depends on nature. It’s estimated that globally nature provides services worth around US$125 trillion a year - Source, Living Planet Report, WWF, 2018
Protecting vital habitats: today and tomorrow
Emirates Nature-WWF is involved in extensive research, in partnership with governmental and environmental entities, to understand our impact on marine biodiversity. Our work in strengthening the current framework of Marine Protected Areas ultimately aims at building resilience to this diversity of impacts and protecting our marine life for current and future generations. This research is vital to achieving long-term protection to this nation’s natural beauty.
If current trends continue, up to 90% of the world’s coral reefs might be gone by mid-century - Source, Living Planet Report, WWF, 2018
Becoming champions of the sea
The private sector has a crucial role to play in the pursuit of marine conservation, especially in the tourism sector. Depending on healthy coasts and seas to operate, this sector also has a major impact on them. The engagement of the private sector is crucial to create change at the scale and speed our planet needs. Emirates Nature-WWF’s Sustainability Partnership Programme allows companies that are passionate about the environment to complement the public efforts of the government in conserving the environmental heritage of the UAE and educating the new generation on the importance of biodiversity and environmental conservation.
The essential need for partnerships
Everyone must be part of the solution, that’s individuals, governments and businesses. By partnering with Emirates Nature-WWF on our upcoming marine projects, you can directly support conservation of the UAE’s natural environment. Partner support will be contributing to the wider socio-economic context of the country and showcasing the human, ecological and economic benefits of conserving the marine environment, and partnering companies will enjoy a diverse set of tailored benefits in return.
Time to make a change
Emirates Nature-WWF has been operating in the UAE for the past 17 years, making significant achievements in the community and country. We have partnered with businesses across diverse industries and government entities to promote and encourage green practices and have accomplished many noteworthy milestones. To find out more about partnering with us on one of our exciting new marine projects click here.