SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 14, July 2016 - Page 81

general community. Georgina Zamora, the Coordinator in Environmental Education and Outreach Program at the Sea Turtle Conservancy, says that through the creation of informational material and media resources for these different stakeholders, it has been easier to engage in public outreach about conservation issues.

Linking Tourism and Marine Conservation

Both Seemann and Zamora think that conservation could be combined perfectly with tourism. Currently, Seemann and colleagues are working on a movie that argues that both tourists and locals need to reduce their garbage output and need to pay for the removal of garbage and recycling. The movie makes the point that locals would benefit from this arrangement because it would remove the garbage in the streets that discourages the tourists who keep many locals’ businesses open. Hotels that have polluted waters next to them from improper garbage disposal and wastewater systems will not attract more tourists in the future. “Tourists want to jump into the blue water from the dock of the hotel and be surrounded by colorful fish”, says Seemann. Even if it cost them more, cleaner waters and streets would improve tourists’ vacations and could reduce their plastic footprint, making them feel like they are helping the place they visit.

Tourism can help motivate local people to maintain healthy ecosystems. Right now, the dive tourism industry in Bocas del Toro is in critical danger. As more coral dies and more fish disappear, the people who come to Bocas del Toro to dive might opt to invest elsewhere. To not lose their businesses, locals are starting to realize that they need to fight for conservation. Restaurants are also facing the same problem. The fish that people love to eat, such as snapper and grouper, are not available on menus anymore because they are becoming increasingly harder to find. Seemann thinks that alternative species from aquacultures or invasive fish, such as lionfish, need to be offered on the restaurant menus in Bocas del Toro to help the reefs and to keep the restaurants with a steady supply of sustainable fish.