Coastal Development, Coral Reefs and Marine Life in Asia

Tourism’s double-edged sword

Authored by: Clevo Wilson , Clem Tisdell

The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Economics in Asia

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  February  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415656450
eBook ISBN: 9781315746289
Adobe ISBN: 9781317597872


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A large proportion of the world’s population, including those of Asian countries, live in close proximity to the coastline. Coastlines are being developed at a faster rate than ever before and there is now a growing body of literature to show that such activities are affecting the quality of coastal ecosystems and its wildlife (see, for example, Jennings, 2004; Siler et al., 2014; Duke et al., 2007). This in turn is impacting negatively on the fishing and the tourism industries, amongst others. Millions of people depend on these sectors for their livelihoods and, unsustainable development can only make the plight of those who rely on these resources worse. The tourism industry in the coastal regions is particularly at risk since the industry relies heavily on coastal ecosystems to attract visitors. This chapter discusses the strong links that exist between coastal development, tourism, marine ecosystems and its wildlife, drawing attention to two well-known species widely used in tourism, namely whales and sea turtles, and discussing their conservation in relation to tourism. The chapter is divided into six sections. The second section examines why it is important to strike a balance between coastal development and protecting ecosystems. In this section, we discuss the major identified causes of coastal ecosystem degradation from the published literature, and the third section focuses attention on tourism development in the Asian region, which is one of the major reasons for coastal degradation. A diagrammatic approach is used to illustrate that planning of coastal tourism development which takes into account environmental impacts could result in economic benefits to the areas and regions concerned. The negative impacts on tourism when coastal ecosystems are damaged are discussed in section four. Section five shows the economic benefits resulting from sea turtle and whale watching-based tourism in Australia, and section six examines tourism as a conservation tool. In this section, the differing experiences of sea turtle tourism in Sri Lanka and Australia are discussed based on our published work. The final section concludes.

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