Mesoamerican Coral Reefs: A Case Study

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1. Introduction

1.1 Coral Decline
Coral reef is a highly diverse ecosystem that provides many environmental, economical and social benefits to humans (Barker & Roberts 2004; Hughes et al. 2010). Approximately 20% of coral has been lost worldwide (Wilkinson 2006) with an 80% loss in the Caribbean basin (Jackson et al. 2014). Due to this decline steps must be taken to conserve and restore the marine ecosystems. The most prominent causes of decline are global warming (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999), water pollution (Jackson et al. 2014) and overfishing (Hixon & Carr 1997). The Mesoamerican reef is the second largest in the world, stretching over almost 700 miles (WWF). Mexico and more specifically Cancun have extremely high densities of tourism. Tourism related coastal development is detrimental to the Mesoamerican coral reefs deterioration (Jacksonet al. 2014). Countries popular for tourism benefit from marine sports such as snorkelling and SCUBA diving, especially as peoples interest in nature increases. However as numbers increase, what was once considered as ecotourism is now taking its toll on the marine environment (Orams 1999; Barber 2001).

1.2. Scuba Diving
SCUBA diving increases interest in the marine environment and can raise public awareness of the threats (van
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Some dive professionals will provide environmental information before a dive (Medio et al. 1997), it has also been proven that if dive leaders intervene when they notice customers touching coral reef it will reduce occurrences (Barker & Roberts 2004). These are necessary steps to protect coral reefs. However for some, they are already deteriorated, 26% of coral reef is heading towards irreparable damage (Wilkinson 2006). Banning diving in these areas is not possible as it is too financially advantageous to local communities. Therefore steps must be taken to provide

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