Many coastal areas in the North-East Atlantic are popular holiday destinations. Since the 1990s, the total number of tourists visiting the OSPAR Regions has increased steadily, growing from around 100 million in 1998 to around 146 million in 2007 Figure 9.6. There are continued increases in coastal infrastructure, including for accommodation and service, and an increasing demand for resources, especially in Region IV, the southern part of Region II and parts of Region III.
The growth of tourism has increased pressure on natural areas and fragile ecosystems, such as dunes, cliffs and wetlands. Tourism also contributes to pollution, marine litter and coastal erosion. Beach tourism and recreational boating are widespread forms of coastal or sea-based tourism and have direct effects on marine species and habitats. Cruise tourism has steadily increased and is expected to continue growing. Other recreational activities that can put pressure on the marine environment include scuba-diving, angling and whale-watching.
A particular concern is habitat fragmentation caused by tourism-related development, especially along the coasts of Regions II and IV. Another concern is the disturbance of beach-dwelling species by tourists during the breeding season. For example, the little tern has suffered reduced breeding success in the southern North Sea. Seagrass meadows (Zostera sp.), which OSPAR has identified as a habitat in need of protection, are impacted by recreational boating, both from frequent anchoring and from dredging to increase water depth. The growing attraction of remote areas as tourist destinations, including in the Arctic, puts these relatively pristine areas under pressure.
Box 9.4 Cruise tourism in the Arctic
Arctic cruising has seen significant growth in recent years. The Svalbard archipelago (Norway), often referred to as Spitsbergen, is one of the most popular destinations in the Arctic. The number of sites visited has increased from 64 in 1996 to 160 in 2008. In 2008, 97 704 tourists visited Svalbard. All recreational ships coming to Svalbard are required to notify the Governor of Svalbard and obtain approval for their travel plans in advance of their trip.
Cruise ships represent a source of disturbance and pollution in areas that are not otherwise affected. The biggest single threat posed by ship-based activities on Svalbard is from a major oil spill. Other environmental threats include degradation of regularly-visited sites, air pollution, discharges of sewage and waste water and introduction of non-indigenous species.
Norway has established a number of protected areas to conserve the archipelago’s natural and cultural values. Where national parks and nature reserves border the sea, their boundaries extend 12 nautical miles out from shore. These marine areas have been included in the OSPAR network of MPAs. Voluntary guidelines, such as the ‘Ten Principles’ for Arctic Tourism developed by WWF International together with local communities, tour operators and other stakeholders, help to reduce negative impacts.
Ny-Ålesund, a scientific community on the west coast, is the world’s most northerly permanent settlement and is popular with cruise ships. The annual influx of 15 000 to 20 000 tourists has forced the development of a code of conduct for tourists to reduce their impact on the local environment and research programmes. Tourist pressure is also managed by restricting access to land areas. In addition, there are time limits imposed on anchoring by ships at Ny-Ålesund.
It is likely that Svalbard will continue to be a popular cruise destination. There is also a possibility that more remote areas of the archipelago will be impacted as larger ice-class vessels are commissioned and the extent of summer sea ice is reduced due to climate change.
Text based on WWF (2004); map based on data from the Governor of Svalbard
OSPAR is working to address some of the main impacts from activities associated with tourism, such as nutrient inputs from sewage Chapter 4, effects of dredging and marine litter. Efforts to comply with the EU Bathing Water Directive provide a focus for water quality in coastal areas. OSPAR countries have also undertaken various actions to preserve their coasts from excessive development. These have been supported by the designation of Natura 2000 sites, OSPAR marine protected areas (MPAs) and national marine parks Chapter 10. The European Commission’s proposed strategy on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and the recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the implementation of ICZM could contribute to minimising impacts on the marine environment while supporting sustainable tourism, if effectively implemented. In this context, implementing marine and coastal spatial planning policies, the use of guidelines and principles for sustainable tourism, and the designation and management of protected areas should be encouraged. OSPAR should keep under review the extent of impacts from tourism-related pressures as the industry develops further.