Coral reefs are beautiful but provide a great deal more than aesthetically pleasing views. They are the foundations of complex marine food webs and support the many economically essential fisheries that provide food for communities around the world. In addition to supporting important food sources they are also economically important because of the tourism generated by allowing public access to these coral reefs.
Although activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and visiting coral reefs increase public awareness and conservation efforts; structures such as offshore platforms and facilities that allow for viewing coral reefs in marine parks have been shown to increase the prevalence of coral diseases. Occurrence of diseases were 15 times greater at reefs with man-made platforms than at reefs that did not have platforms, which may imply that platforms and or activities associated with them decrease coral health and leave them more susceptible to disease. Physical damage to corals makes them more vulnerable to diseases and has implications for long-term coral reef degradation more so than short-term effects such as physical damage. In addition, nutrient loading is higher near the platforms due to accumulation of seabird feces and pollutants introduced by tourists.
In order to decrease coral disease it has been suggested that smaller groups, dispersal of tourist groups and the elimination of platforms be implemented.
Coral reef ecosystem division’s field assessment of indo-pacific coral diseases and compromised health states. NOAA.gov. Retrieved January 21, 2014 from http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cred/coral_and_algal_disease_overview.php
Lamb J, Willis B. 2011. Using coral disease prevalence to assess the effects of concentrating tourism activities on offshore reefs in a tropical marine park. Conservation Biology 25: 1044-1052