Coral restoration drive to boost ‘blue’ economy

By Fay Simmons

Tribune Business Reporter


The Ministry of Tourism yesterday partnered for a coral reef restoration drive that aims to boost sustainable tourism and the 23 percent of Bahamian economic output generated by the ocean economy.

Latia Duncombe, the ministry’s director-general, said teaming with the Perry Institute for Marine Sciences (PIMS) and the Reef Rescue network on the Coral is Calling campaign will help develop a new tourism product and help to protect the marine environment.

She said: “The launch of the Coral Is Calling campaign, which invites divers to take part in coral restoration in The Bahamas, brings about the creation of an exciting, new, immersive tourism product for our dive market, which is a significant niche market in our tourism portfolio.

“The Blue Economy is undoubtedly a critical pillar of our nation’s economic growth and sustainable development, contributing approximately 23 percent to our GDP. Therefore, I cannot underscore enough how important it is that we do everything in our power to protect and preserve our coral reefs, as we owe our success in tourism, in large measure, to our pristine marine environment.”

Mrs Duncombe added that nature-based tourism activities such as fishing, swimming and scuba diving attract about 25 percent of The Bahamas’ visitors annually. This means that millions of dollars in annual economic impact are dependent on the health of this nation’s oceans.

She said: “The exquisitely beautiful coral that is the centerpiece of The Bahamas’ underwater wonderland plays a significant role in maintaining the health of our marine ecosystems and our pristine environment. It is known that 95 percent of the Exclusive Economic Zone of The Bahamas is ocean, from which are derived ecosystem services, such as fishing, swimming, birding, recreational boating and scuba diving.

“These activities represent a major source of sustenance for Bahamians and constitute annually 25 percent of our international visitations, which accounts for millions of dollars in visitor expenditures and trade.” Mrs Duncombe said tourists know the importance of ocean conservation and would like to participate in initiatives that preserve The Bahamas’ pristine waters.

She added that the blue economy extends to all Bahamian islands and is responsible for more than 70 percent of the country’s employment, so driving initiatives such as Coral is Calling will boost the economy while protecting vital resources.

“From the perspective of why visitors want to travel, we’ve done quite a bit in the ocean conservation space as a government, as a ministry, with protection, sharks, and all the other initiatives, and visitors want to bond with countries. They want to bond with islands,” Mrs Duncombe said.

“And as they bond, we’re creating opportunities and initiatives where we preserve and protect our country, but also give our visitors a meaningful reason to want to return. They know, and they understand, the importance of our ocean, of the reef and they want to participate and do good.

“Based on some of the recent reports we’re seeing from the blue economy perspective, that constitutes up to 70 percent of our employment. And so looking at this touching all 16 islands within the destination, we’re creating activities, we’re creating things to do, we’re creating more economic activities within the destination, while preserving and conserving our oceans.”

Mrs Duncombe added that ensuring conservation efforts are integrated with the tourism product is an essential part of securing the industry’s future.

She said: “Recognising the vital role our coral ecosystems play in maintaining the health of our surrounding seas and supporting our citizens’ economic well-being, it is imperative to continue the strong partnerships between our tourism industry, specifically our dive sector, and our conservation communities.

“By collaboratively working together, we can significantly enhance coral preservation and regeneration efforts in our destination. So we’re very excited about the partnership. We’ve seen the results of not doing anything at all. We’ve seen the potential that exists if we all participate, and certainly at the ministry all of our stakeholders are on board, and we encourage each and every one of you to do the same.”


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