Press releases

Friday 11 Jan 2002

Coral or no coral? It's my choice

UNEP launches new communication tools to help protect coral reefs
UNEP launches new communication tools to help protect coral reefs

Cancun, Mexico/Paris, 11 January 2002 -- In response to the growing threat to coral reefs, worldwide, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) have prepared five new "communication" tools to help the tourist industry explain to their customers the importance of protecting coral reefs during their holidays.

The first of these tools, a "wall calendar", is being distributed today to the 1,500 hotels attending MarketPlace - the largest travel and trade exhibition in the wider Caribbean region - taking place here in Cancun, Mexico.

The calendar, produced in association with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), is available in English, French and Spanish. It provides recommendations on twelve areas of action (one per month) that are linked to the protection of coral reefs, including waste water treatment, solid waste management, pool management, energy use, shopping for souvenirs, and tips for snorkeling and scuba diving. Two detachable pages list contacts for organizations in the Caribbean region that can provide more assistance and information to hotel managers and tourists alike.

"Coral reefs are a major tourist attraction in many coastal areas, and protecting them is essential not only for the environment but also for the tourism industry," says Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, Assistant UNEP Executive Director. "We believe that by raising awareness and so changing the behavior of tourists and local tourism industry workers alike, the damage to coral reefs can be reduced. This was the thinking behind the development of the wall calendar and other communication tools that include a passport, children's quiz, poster and boaters chart," she said.

The five coral reef communication tools from UNEP and ICRI contribute to the awareness raising activities of ICRAN, the International Coral Reef Action Network. ICRI is an informal partnership of world leaders and experts on coral reefs that raises awareness through political channels. ICRAN is the "action arm" of ICRI. A partnership-based network, it focuses on site-based solutions to reverse the decline of coral reefs through organisations working together at the international, national and local level around the world.

UNEP is a lead partner in ICRAN through its active involvement in four regional seas and core co-ordination support. The action phase of ICRAN was recently launched with a major grant from the United Nations Foundation (see http://www.icran.org).

"In its action plan the International Coral Reef Action Network called for a campaign in the Caribbean to raise awareness and influence change," said Arthur Dahl, Director of UNEP's Corals Unit. "The new communication tools from UNEP will help kick-start this campaign and hopefully lead to better care and long-term management and conservation of the immensely valuable coral resource," he said.

Developed with financial support from the French Ministry of the Environment as a contribution to ICRI, the new communication tools are available free of charge as electronic files, which can be used to print attractive and informative materials. Available in five languages, they can be distributed with travel documents or in in-flight magazines, in hotel lobbies and rooms, or at travel agencies, airport lounges, visitor information centers, reception areas, and recreation centres.

"The tools are designed to send the message that each of us can contribute during our holidays to the protection of coral reefs," said Ms. de Larderel. "Under the slogan, "Coral or no coral? ... It's my choice", they give the message that anyone can take simple actions to help protect and conserve one of the most important and seductively beautiful habitats in the world."

The tourism sector is of major economic importance in the Caribbean region, both in terms of foreign exchange earnings and in terms of employment. Since Caribbean tourism is primarily associated with beaches and the sea, there have been - and continue to be - impacts from tourism on the coastal environment including coral reefs.

Tourism impacts range from snorkeling, diving and boating, which can cause direct physical damage to reefs to fishing and collecting, which can contribute to over-exploitation of reef species and threatening local survival of endangered species. There are also indirect impacts. These relate to the development, construction and operation of tourism infrastructure as a whole (resorts, marinas, ports, airports, etc).

The recently published UNEP-WCMC World Atlas of Coral Reefs states that more than sixty per cent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean region are under threat. It says that entire reefs have been decimated by disease and that the region (which hosts a little under 8 per cent of the world's total reef area) is widely affected by many direct human impacts, including sedimentation, nutrient pollution and over-fishing.
More specifically, in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlas report that the Veracruz reefs have probably suffered the greatest damage from human impacts due to their proximity to the coast and their location near important ports.

Mexico's tourism has developed enormously since the mid-1970s. According to the UNEP-WCMC Atlas, "Small reef patches, such as El Garrafon at Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc at Cancun, have been completely destroyed by tourism and impacts are becoming more evident elsewhere along the Cancun-Tulum touristic corridor in places such as Akumal and Puerto Morelos, as well as the offshore island of Cozumel."

For more information contact the UNEP DTIE Tourism Programme coordinator on: tel +33 1 44 371450, fax +33 1 44 371474, E-mail: uneptie@unep.fr or Robert Bisset, DTIE Press Officer and UNEP Spokesperson for Europe on email: robert.bisset@unep.fr
In Mexico, contact Rody Oñate, Information Officer PNUMA/ORPALC
(+52) 5202-4841 y 5202-6394; Fax: (+52) 5202-0950, email: ronate@rolac.unep.mx

 

Note to Editors

Five tools from UNEP and ICRI to communicate about coral reef protection
(Available in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German).

1. Targeted at all tourists, a "passport" explains the main biological and ecological features of coral reefs - their formation, their main elements, their ecological significance, and the main threats to them. It explains to visitors why coral reefs should be protected - in particular that without reefs, the tropical paradise they are visiting would not exist. The introduction provides space for the user's picture and name, and a map on which the user can mark the coral reefs he or she has visited.

2. For kids, a quiz asks twenty-four questions about coral reef biology and ecology, as well as threats and recommendations on how to protect reefs.

3. A poster highlights how tourists can contribute to the protection of coral reefs while on holiday. It is a supporting tool to the passport -a reminder of ten simple actions that tourists can take, from avoiding fish feeding or touching corals, to switching off the lights when leaving their hotel room.

4. Specially targeted to boaters - motor or sailing - a double-sided chart highlights five symbols used on navigation charts to indicate no-anchor areas, mooring buoys, protected areas, used oil containers and the "divers down" flag. There is specific information on how to manage solid waste, holding tanks, refueling and anchoring practices.

5. A calendar provides recommendations on twelve areas of action that are linked to the protection of coral reefs, including waste water treatment, solid waste management, energy use, shopping for souvenirs, and tips for snorkeling and scuba diving. Two detachable pages list contacts for organizations in the Caribbean region that can provide more assistance and information to hotel managers and tourists alike. (Available in English, Spanish, French).

Some UNEP activities on coral reefs

The UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) World Atlas of Coral Reefs. Published by University of California Press in 2001. Information about this, the most detailed assessment to date of the world's coral reefs is available from UNEP-WCMC at tel: +44 (0)1223 277314 Fax: +44 (0)1223 277136, Email: info@unep-wcmc.org., http://www.unep-wcmc.org.

As part of its contribution to the global campaign to conserve corals, UNEP is a partner in ICRAN, the International Coral Reef Action Network. See http://www.icran.org

UNEP has a Coral Reef Unit (see http://www.unep.ch/coral.html). It is also working actively to promote responsible tourism in coral areas, and other sensitive environments, via its Tour Operators Initiative (see http://www.uneptie.org/pc/tourism/) and is one of the United Nations coordinators for the 2002 International Year of Ecotourism.

UNEP News Release: 2002/01

Friday 11 Jan 2002
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