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Apr 2, 2003

Cruise tourism: too much of a good thing?

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Cruise tourism is booming and there is no denying that the U.S. dollars floating around Belize City are real. But can the country’s once pristine environment deal with the traffic? Today, with four cruise ships in the harbour, News 5′s Jacqueline Woods sought to find out.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The weather may not have been picture perfect, but the four cruise ships that anchored off Belize City were an impressive sight. Thousands of tourists, young and old, disembarked from the large vessels, boarded their tenders and headed out to their various destinations. Along the route, a team from the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute monitored their movements on the water. The study is part of a larger project undertaken by C.Z.M.A.I., The Belize Tourism Board, and others in the industry, to see how best our marine attractions can be sustained in the face of an unprecedented onslaught of visitors.

One of the cayes that is being monitored is Goff’s Caye; the island is frequently visited by cruise ship tourists. Today, however, the inclement weather did keep many away from the island, but some did manage to make it out to swim and snorkel. The activities are closely being monitored by organisations like the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute to see what impact if any they are having to the island and the surrounding waters and marine life.

Tanya Williams, Information Specialist, C.Z.M.A.I.

“On the caye itself, we have noticed a big problem with garbage, with people leaving garbage behind. Some of the tour operators do take back their garbage, but some garbage is left behind. In terms of our coral reef, we are seeing impact on the coral reef and we have actually seen boats anchoring on coral reefs and we have seen people walking on the coral reefs. We have seen incidences where visitors have really gotten scratched up and scraped up because they are walking on the coral reefs.”

Today the caye was dotted with sea fans, but officials believe it was not the result of any human action, rather the coral was washed ashore following a series of recent wave surges. It is estimated that an average of one hundred tourists visit Goff’s Caye each day with peak days seeing over four hundred visitors. Today, a total of one hundred and eighty people came ashore.

C.Z.M.A.I.’s Information Specialist, Tanya Williams says one goal of the study is to determine the greatest number of people the caye can host without degrading the environment and affecting the visitors’ experience on the island.

Tourist #1

“Other than the weather it’s been good. We’ve been to Belize a couple of years ago and did the cave tubing tour…it was good.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Why did you both decide to make it out to Goff’s Caye?”

Tourist #2

“I’ve never snorkelled before and it sounded fun.

Jacqueline Woods

“What about you?”

Tourist #3

“Just to get off the boat so we’re not shaking around all the time. It’s pretty stable here.”

Jacqueline Woods

“On your way out to the island, did the tour guide give you any advice as to what to do or what not to do?”

Tourist #1

“I couldn’t hear real well, I was sitting in the back, but I don’t think so.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So he didn’t say you should not touch the coral.”

Tourist #1 (to other tourist)

“Did he say that?”

Tourist

“Nope.”

Tourist #1

“I don’t think so, no. Was he supposed to?”

Tourist #3

“A pretty good pep talk I think.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What did he say?”

Tourist #2

“To stay away from the coral.”

Tourist #3

“If you touch anything you’ll damage it, stuff like that. Just be careful, that’s all he said.”

It’s clear that some tour guides did their job while others just ferried their passengers to the caye. C.Z.M.A.I. says because of what they have seen taking place in the area, they are certain some tourists are not being properly advised about their trips to Goff’s Caye.

Nadia Bood, Reef Biologist, C.Z.M.A.I.

“We are hoping that they are doing that, although we’ve been seeing some really disconcerting activity on the reef, such as people standing on the reef and walking on the reef. But we are hoping that they are educating them.”

One way C.Z.M.A.I. has been studying activities occurring below the water is by sending a team of divers to assess the situation and see how they can best monitor the reef. Today, Nadia Bood, a reef biologist, went out by the caye’s point to an area where many tourists go to snorkel.

Nadia Bood

“What I will basically be doing is laying down some pegs. And that will basically demarcate and area that I will monitor and come back on a routine basis to monitor the area.”

“I have seen an increase in abrasions and dislodgement of coral colonies; that could be as a result of boat anchors, it could be as a result of visitors making contact with the reef.”

C.Z.M.A.I. says they will soon install ten mooring buoys to reduce the coral damage from anchors and they hope that the capacity study will act as a guide for tour operators using the area. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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