Protecting beaches from visitors

Angela Yerten, guest writer

Over the summer many families like to go on vacations, especially off to places where the ocean is nearby to surf or swim. However, not many realize that a massive influx of visitors can unintentionally pollute marine resources as well as damage the ecosystem of those coastal areas. 

According to the United Nations, there are more than 600 million people, which is around 10% of the world’s population, living in coastal areas. These areas cover less than 15% of the Earth’s land surface and yet it accommodates a vast majority of the human population. The huge number of residents alone can make a major impact and contribute to marine pollution with their trash and waste. That’s only the residents. Considering the high number of visitors from other places of the world, the situation can only worsen even more from there. 

Personally, I too have observed the effects ignorant visitors have on the beaches of Hawaii. There are several beaches that are tightly packed with people every single day and I noticed that some would leave their trash on the sand or discard it anywhere but the trash can. I can also sometimes find videos online of people getting too close to endangered animals like the Hawaiian Monk Seals or the sea turtles, of course, aggravates them. Not only does it put the marine animals’ lives at risk but also other people’s. As mentioned before, a massive wave of tourists can make a huge impact as they add to pollution and waste. The debris can end up in the ocean where some might contain harmful chemicals in them. This can lead to a cycle where marine animals are consuming these harmful chemicals that could eventually lead back to human beings once they consume those infected animals. Issues like these are not only found in Hawaii but they can also be found all over the world. 

In Zakynthos, an island in Greece, the coastal nesting grounds are being disturbed by tourism behavior and development. These grounds are an important breeding site for the Loggerhead turtles. Changes in the landscape of Zakynthos come from the construction of buildings and facilities being made to attract and accommodate tourists, which will not do the Loggerhead turtles any good as their population is under pressure. Their population will only continue to decrease if the female Loggerhead turtles can not lay their eggs on the beach safely and successfully without the dangers of hunting and other factors. 

 On an island, so dependent on its nature, let this serve as a reminder to keep Hawai’i beaches clean, there is a line between ignorance and not knowing. Would you ruin something so beautifully that you hold it deep in your heart with trash? Animals are suffering with ignorant tourists aggravating them, beaches becoming polluted, and locals suffering secondhand; therefore, it is never too late for visitors to learn from their mistakes and be respectful to the places they visit.