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Eco-tourism can boost local economy: expert

Evelyn Chung, Derek Chung, centre, and Professor John Agard. PHOTO: SEAN NERO/NERONEWS.COM

NERONEWS.COM

At a time when Trinidad and Tobago is embarking on a drive to diversify from an energy-based economy, to one where tourism, manufacturing and entertainment ensures the country’s economic survival, comes news that preservation of the ecosystem can paid huge dividends, too.

So said Professor John Agard of the Tropical Island Ecology centre at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus.

He was speaking at Friday’s launch of World Oceans Day in this the International Year of the Reef, held at Medulla Art Gallery on Fitt Street, Woodbrook, by the Institute of Marine Affairs.

Curmira Gulston, left, Katrina Khan-Roberts, Sterling Chadee, Deputy Permanent Secretary Planning Ministry and Dr Ahmad Khan, director, Institute of Marine Affairs.

Focusing on the topic The Challenge of Change for Coral Reefs and The Climate, Agard said most people did not realise the high value of the ecosystem and the benefits provided by coral reefs to the economy, citing it revolves around tourism.

“The valuation focused on tourists visiting, at least in part, due to coral reefs, estimated at 40 per cent of the visitors to Tobago. Direct economic impacts from visitor spending on accommodation, reef recreation and miscellaneous expenditures in 2006 were estimated at US$43.5 million. At the time, this comprised 15 per cent of GDP in Tobago,” he said.

Agard continued, “Today is World Oceans Day. So why should we care? Well, because the oceans about 70 per cent of the earth. They are also the source of 80 per cent of the air we breathe and the world’s largest source of protein. So, to summarise, human beings can’t survive without the ecosystem services that the oceans provide. It therefore makes perfect sense for us to protect the oceans and the life in it.”

Kevon Campbell and Jaime Lee Loy.

In an effort to sustain national momentum on the importance of protecting and preserving the ecosystem, the Institute of Marine Affairs will host a series of public events aimed at keeping the topic on the front burners and ultimately ensuring that future generations can enjoy the natural habitats of this twin-island republic.

Miss Universe 1976 Janelle Commissiong-Chow, chairperson, Trinidad Tourism Agency and former finance minister Wendell Mottley.

Diva Amon, left, Amy Deacon and Fadilah Ali.

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