Coral Reef Pollution Can Hurt Bermuda’s Tourism Industry

10 October 2016

Environment and Development in a Global Perspective State of the Environment Report Coral Reef Pollution Can Hurt Bermuda’s Tourism Industry Introduction Waste management techniques in Bermuda have adverse effects on the coral reefs and can hurt the island’s tourism industry. This is a state of the environment report on the islands of Bermuda that serves to shed light on the pollution of the coral reefs due to waste management problems and the subsequent potential adverse effects it can have on the Tourism industry.

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I actually used to live in Bermuda during the period of 2006 to 2010 so I would like to think that I have gained valuable insight into the social and human development threats that this pollution problem poses to the general population. The tourism industry is the 2nd largest industry in Bermuda and is already in decline so it should be one of the island’s top priorities to maintain or even rebuild tourism to its former self. This report consists of three main parts. Firstly, a description of the environmental issues affecting the coral reef communities around the island.

Secondly, a description of the human development issues and socioeconomic effects that the degradation of the coral reef community has or will most likely lead to on the island. Lastly, the report explores some proposed remedies for the environmental issues. State of the Environment For over a century, heavy metal waste from the islands of Bermuda has been stored on the shores of a large natural harbor called Castle Harbour. It is located between the north eastern end of the main island and St. David’s island and it just happens to be a mere two hundred meters away from the nearest coral reef community.

Most of the waste being dealt with is from the population itself. There are about 67,000 people living on the islands and it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. (Central Intelligence Agency) All of the country’s solid waste and scrap metal are either dumped at the site in Devonshire to be incinerated or stored at Castle Harbour, also known as the ‘airport dump’. “Bermuda has been disposing of waste at the airport dump for nearly 40 years with little thought of the impact on the environment,” read a 2010 article in the local newspaper, the Royal Gazette. Bardgett, 2010) Figure 1 shows a portion of the Castle Harbour site and really gives you an appreciation for the proximity of the waste to the water itself. As you can imagine there is not much land flow acting as a buffer before pollutants leach into the ocean. Figure 1. Old cars stacked at the Castle Harbour ‘airport dump. ’ (Bardgett, 2010) In addition to cars, appliances such as refrigerators release harmful chemicals like anti-freeze and oil into the ocean surrounding the Harbour.

These chemicals have already caused irreversible damage to the coral reef and are having a notable effect on the black grouper fish population (Bardgett, 2010). It is worth noting that the coral reef in the area has already been through irreversible sedimentation damage in the past from a dredge and fill operation that occurred 60 years ago. Since the 1970s, there was a decrease in percent cover from 12% (Dryer & Logan, 1978) to 2% and is not completely gone only because the brain coral Diploria labyrinthiformis was sediment tolerant (Flood, 2004).

In Castle Harbour sedimentation is chronic so this new threat of chemical leakage is a blow to an already wounded environment. Figure 2 shows a brain coral from Castle Harbour that has been damaged by sedimentation. The dimple type formation is characteristic of sediment damage (Flood, 2004). Figure 2. Dimple formations on brain coral affected by sedimentation at Castle Harbour (Flood, 2004). Unfortunately, in addition to the sedimentation and the chemical leaching, the coral reef colonies are also subject to pollution from raw sewage. Bermuda does not have a sewage treatment plant.

The island itself is made entirely of limestone, as it is land formed by a now dormant volcano. Households rely on pits dug into the limestone that stores and processes sewage along with used water from sinks and laundry. This mixture eventually reaches the oceans after it percolates through the limestone. Larger structures such as hotels and apartment complexes use pipes to transport waste offshore. According to this report, human sewage might cause the algae on the reef to “overgrow and shade the corals and eventually kill the reef” (“Bermuda’s inshore waters,”).

Sewage waste that had been dissolved and pumped three miles offshore from Paget Parish in the south has caused a growth surge in marine weeds that choke the slower growing corals. Now this is an ecological imbalance and is currently ongoing so scientists are monitoring it (Jones). Also, the extra nutrients will cause the phytoplankton to grow in numbers and turn the water from crystal clear to green (“Bermuda’s inshore waters,”). During the summer months an average of 400,000 tourists visit the islands and cruise ships significantly contribute to the amount of sewage produced by the population.

Sewage from the City of Hamilton and surrounding areas as well as the cruise ships are disposed of at the Seabright Point submarine sewage outfall. 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of raw sewage is discharged every day, at peak flow (“Seabright point monitoring,”). According to a Pastorok and Bilyard report, the three components of sewage effluent most detrimental to coral communities are nutrients, sediments and toxic substances (Pastorok & Bilyard, 1985). Castle Harbour is primarily providing sediments and toxic substances while the nutrients are being pumped about the islands at different locations but mainly from Seabright Point.

The same report explained that anthropogenic inputs of dissolved nutrients and organic particulate matter can limit oxygen levels. This is important because it directly affects the marine life in the area that depends on the oxygen. Bermuda’s coral reefs are the most isolated and northern reefs in the Atlantic. It is actually extremely rare to find long distance dispersals by corals to isolated reefs like Bermuda’s. These coral reefs are located just on the outskirts of the environment that it thrives in so it does not have an abundance of different types of coral.

The coral species that happen to be there have adapted to the seasonal weather that these higher latitudes bring. However, because there are a limited number of species, the entire reef’s ability to bounce back and respond to environmental change is limited. Therefore, any damage to the coral reefs will have persistent impacts. Related Human Development Issues Besides tourism, there are many ways that coral reef degradation directly impact humans. As mentioned before, coral reefs provide shoreline protection by buffering wave energy and reducing coastal erosion.

As they become degraded, they will become weaker and the waves do not only cause more coastal erosion as they get stronger but they also aid in the breaking up of coral so once degradation has begun it tends to be a very slippery slope. Correspondingly, loss of coral reefs means loss of critical habitat for reef fish. Two of Bermuda’s local delicacies are codfish and potatoes, which are traditionally, enjoyed on a Sunday morning and rockfish which is a soft tasty dish that you can find at any restaurant on the island. Both of these fish are directly linked to the coral reefs and a reduction of habitat would mean a reduction in fish to catch.

This would negatively affect both food supply and associated economic activities. Finally, coral reefs have pharmaceutical compounds and a degraded one can no longer provide medicinal resources for drugs to treat heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses (“Socioeconomic impacts,”). Figure 3 shows the different reasons that Bermuda’s coral reef communities are used and their associated values. Figure 3. Total Economic Value (TEV) of Bermuda’s coral community divided into sectors (Sarkis, van Beukering & McKenzie, 2010).

Figure 4 corresponds with Figure 3 and provides the monetary value of the different sectors that the coral reef community TEV is divided into. Figure 4. Average Annual Value of services provided by Bermuda’s coral reefs (Sarkis, van Beukering & McKenzie, 2010). Bermuda’s tourism industry is already struggling but continues to be the 2nd largest industry in Bermuda (Central Intelligence Agency). The economy is primarily based on providing financial services for international business and since Bermuda has the fourth highest income per capita in the world, it’s safe to say that the country is truly affluent (Central Intelligence Agency).

However, the wealth in the country is certainly not divided equally as the country’s wealth relies so heavily on these two industries. People with direct influence in the tourism and business community hold the majority of the island’s wealth but the population of locals in this category is very limited because many of the business executives and workforce are expatriates who come to the islands to work for some time and leave.

This occurs because of the law in Bermuda that prevents foreigners from ever gaining citizenship and because most of the business is international and would more likely hire their own people for the higher positions. It is also extremely hard to become a resident without marrying a local and foreigners cannot even own land, or buy houses that are under the annual rental value of USD $177, 000 (“Bermuda residence and,” 2012). This means that the recorded 19% of the entire population that lives under the poverty line is actually a larger percentage of the truly local population.

This is an extremely large number of people for a country that has five times the GDP per capita of the USA (Central Intelligence Agency). With jobs and positions in the business market essentially saturated, locals have been obligated to work in the service and hospitality sector where the tourism industry is the major provider of income. It is such a shame that the obvious candidate, the depression, is negatively affecting the industry. With the decline in tourism, a larger gap is being created between the rich and the poor.

Also, since the initiative was taken to make the tourism industry a joint effort between the government and the community, a further decline in tourism would directly affect family owned hospitality businesses as well as single person jobs and will undoubtedly increase the percentage of the population living under the poverty line. So it would be even more shameful if the tourism industry were further perturbed by other factors on a local scale such as the pollution of the coral reefs due to poor waste management.

Besides marine tourism and aesthetics, tourists mainly come to the island because of its world-renowned ‘pink sand’ beaches. The coral is responsible for the pink sand and clear water and most importantly acts as a buffer for wave action. Therefore, if there is less coral then there will be more coastal erosion and this would truly be detrimental to the beaches and Bermuda’s tourism. Proposed Remedies and Conclusion Now that we have established that the two main problems are the Castle Harbour leaching and the sewage disposal, we can talk about potential solutions.

Greg Wilcox, president of Midway Auto Parts in Kansas City, Missouri, visited the island in 2010 with a few of his colleagues and explained that he was surprised at the situation at Castle Harbour because it was something only expected of a third world country (Bardgett, 2010). He is now working with the environmental group Greenrock on an initiative that would benefit all sectors of the community including insurance companies, auto repair shops and the government. In the US there are auto parts recyclers who deal with ‘white material’ and sell the second-hand parts (Bardgett, 2010).

Having lived in Bermuda, I know for a fact that there is an abandoned airstrip behind the airport itself that would be a prime location for something of that nature. Transporting the material from Castle Harbour will not be a problem because it is literally across the street. It is already the first thing the tourists see when they get to the island but at least this way it can be contained within warehouses inside a compound and white material can be drained and disposed of properly.

For the sewage system problem, the most obvious remedy would be to build a sewage treatment plant. However, because of the linear dispersal of the island it would be very difficult to dig up the roads to lay down sewage lines (Wingate, 2006). The public also are strongly against a sewage treatment plant being anywhere near their houses and in the central district of Hamilton there is hardly any vacant land available. The only option to mitigate the amount of sewage leaking into the ocean would be to upgrade the method of treatment for each household or complex.

If the government were to import small-scale self-contained tertiary treatment plants in bulk for each household it will be more affordable (Wingate, 2006). Having said all this, no action will be taken for at least another four years because the Coral Reef Ecology and Optics Lab just launched a five year assessment of the marine environment and coral reef ecosystem in 2012. The assessment is centered on the Seabright Point sewage outfall and is supposed to determine the fate of the sewage as well as the impact on the reef ecosystem (“Seabright point monitoring,”)

Final Word Count: 2416 References: 1. ) Central Intelligence Agency. (2013). The World Factbook: Bermuda. Updated February 13, 2013, Retrieved March 19, 2013, from https://www. cia. gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bd. html 2. ) Bardgett, Robyn. (2010, December 1). Vehicle recyclers visit from US Pollution at airport dump causes concern. The Royal Gazette, Retrieved from http://www. royalgazette. com/article/20101201/NEWS07/712019915 3. ) Pastorok, R. A. , Bilyard, G. R. , 1985. Effects of sewage pollution on coral-reef communities.

Marine Ecology Progress Series. 21, 175–189. 4. ) Dryer, S. , Logan, A. , 1978. Holocene reefs and sediments of Castle Harbor, Bermuda. Journal of Marine Research. 36(3), 339–425. 5. ) Flood, V. S. (2004). Coral Community Structure and Patterns of Sedimentation in Castle Harbour Bermuda. Retrieved from http://athenaeum. libs. uga. edu/bitstream/handle/10724/7970/flood_vanese_s_200412_ms. pdf? sequence=1 6. ) Bermuda’s inshore waters. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. coexploration. org/bbsr/coral/html/body_bermuda_inshore_waters. html 7. Jones, R. (n. d. ). Environmental issues. Retrieved from http://www. moon. com/destinations/bermuda/background/the-land/environmental-issues 8. ) Seabright point monitoring. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. bios. edu/research/projects/seabright 9. ) Socioeconomic impacts. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. reefresilience. org/Toolkit_Coral/C2c2_Socioecon. html 10. ) Sarkis , S. , van Beukering, P. J. H. , & McKenzie, E. Bermuda Department of Conservation Services, (2010). Total economic value of bermuda. Retrieved from website: http://www. onservation. bm/coral-reef-economic-valuation/ 11. ) Bermuda residence and property. (2012, November). Retrieved from http://www. lowtax. net/lowtax/html/bermuda/jbrres. html 12. ) Wingate, D. Bermuda Zoological Society, (2006). Conservation in bermuda (CON-02). Retrieved from website: http://www. gov. bm/portal/server. pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_11280_207_227543_43/http;/ptpublisher. gov. bm;7087/publishedcontent/publish/new_min_of_environment/environmental_protection___project_nature_fact_sheets/conservation_in_bermuda_0. pdf

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