Eco Tours in the Caribbean - Sustainable Tourism & Conservation Laws

The Caribbean is a very popular tourist destination, with people coming from all around the world to visit the many islands that dot the landscape here. With such a significant amount of use comes the threat of overuse, and the subsequent need for protective regulations. This part of the world knows first hand what damage can be done by not paying the natural world due heed. After all, many of these islands were once completely clear-cut to make way for immense sugar cane plantations. The damages wrought by actions like this still effect the water, air, and land quality of some islands in the Caribbean. In an effort to improve these resources, the myriad governments of Caribbean nations have come together to create certain laws to protect their land and their people.

The largest framework that governs the creation of these laws is known as the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region. The laws that come from this convention are focused on the most necessary resource for Caribbean economies: the ocean. The ocean not only provides a vital source of nutrition for the working poor of these islands, but it also provides extensive employment in both the commercial fishing and tourism industries. In order to protect these jobs, many laws have come out of the convention that protects the marine environment. The strictest of these laws govern the ability of industry and individuals to pollute the waters surrounding participating countries. The largest impact that this has on tourists is a financial one, in that most tourist businesses have had to marginally raise their prices to accommodate the extra costs incurred by this oversight. However, the regulations have also gone a long way toward mitigating some of the environmental damage done during a time when such regulations did not exist.

Numerous Caribbean nations are also signatories of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. There are three major components to this treaty that have a direct impact on the development of Ecotourism in the Caribbean. First, the conservation of biological diversity needs to be a major consideration whenever development is approached. Second, the use of that biological diversity for things like tourism and harvesting must be done in a sustainable fashion. Finally, there needs to be a "fair and equitable sharing" of all the benefits that local biodiversity provides. Legally, what this means is that large corporate interests are barred from creating hurdles toward accessing biodiversity. This also means that local populations are more likely to benefit from things like tourism. This benefit to local communities leads to greater access, and therefore greater selection for tourists coming to this region.

By far, the most famous points of Caribbean tourism are the beaches. The beaches here are known worldwide for their size, their blue water, and their thriving biological diversity. However, there are a number of other very popular activities on these islands as well. For example, reef diving is seeing a comeback lately due to the advancement of provisions set down in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention has led to a downturn in pollution, as well as funding for the creation of artificial reef structures to replace damaged ones. While most tourism operations in the region involve the ocean or the coast in some way, there are also terrestrial Ecotourism opportunities. These opportunities come in the form of volunteering and trekking.

The Caribbean is an exceptionally diverse place in every way imaginable. Not only does the landscape change dramatically from one island to the next, but the culture and ecology of each island presents something new and exotic as well. This diversity is underscored by a shared dependence on similar resources, necessitating a certain amount of collusion when it comes to conservation.