Gèrard L. Bellan - D. R.- Bellan Santini -Consequences of tourism, sport and leisure activities on marine flora and fauna EN.pdfDownload Share on Facebook

Gèrard L. Bellan, D. R. Bellan - Santini- Consequences of tourism, sport and leisur activities on marine flora and fauna


A Report on the scientific aspects of the consequences of Tourism and other leisure activities on the marine flora and fauna have been prepared on the behalf of the French Ministry of Environment. After the completion of an exhaustive bibliographical research concentrating on publications concerning the entire problem, it has been realized a synthesis leading to a series of proposals. Before, it is necessary to point out that our knowledge is too often based on the sole observation of the deeds -and misdeeds- of tourism along with the small amount of experimental study. Among these proposals, the following are probably the more crutial: 1) compilation of all studies ordered by the State and its decentralized Services, local Collectivities and by any other entity of an industrial, commercial or research order, 2) definition of priority species and Ecosystems, 3) observation on direct and indirect impact by tourists and sportsmen on the natural environment, for each one of the large biotops, 4) quantification of the impact of fishing by amateurs 5) the absolute necessity of the alliance of naturalist disciplines with sociological, economical and judicial disciplines within their maritime specialities.

Key words: Tourism, coastal, flora, fauna, propositions, conservation


The attacks sustained by the shore, its ecosystems, landscapes resources are constantly on the rise. The coastal area is attractive to urbanization, industrialization, tourism, vacation homes, fishing, aquiculture, mineral exploitations, pipelines, military bases, naval yards and, more recently, the desire to preserve natural environments and underwater natural and archeological treasures. Moreover, the coastal area is used as receptacle for the waste, treated or not, from the neighboring towns, industries, agricultural and forestry activities. It represents the end of the line for most of the watershed basins bordering it. These multiple activities in the coastal zones imply competitions, hence conflicts, among human uses. These conflicts may also occur between human activities and the region's fauna. One of the most important conflicts derives from the commercial use tourist in particular and interests inherent to Natural conservation.

The most exhaustive bibliographical research possible concentrating on publications concerning the entire problem. We propose to study the latter conflicts.

The research is in two parts:

  • the most exhaustive bibliographical research possible concentrating on publications concerning the entire problem.
  • a synthesis leading to a series of proposals.

The present contribution is a kind of summary issued from a report for the French Ministry of Environment (Bellan et Bellan-Santini 1999)

Bibliographical Study 


First of all, we undertook a bibliographical study by a query of several data banks, notably the ASFA-3-Aquatic-Pollution & Environment Quality (1984-1999) and using a more conventional bibliography in our possession.

We assembled the bibliographical data covering the last 15 years, which provided us, at times, with much anterior data, according to the basic bibliographical sources.


  • Choosing the key words

In the first stage, we choose to pair two key words, the first one can be qualified as "wide": littoral, coastal, marine, etc., the other, narrower, was used as a qualifier: tourism, ecotourism, parks, management, watching, fishing, etc. Thirty or so of these qualifiers were used and paired with the more generic key-words. In the end, we retained 1757 references out of several thousand possibilities. In the second stage, we proceeded to a geographical listing, on a case by case basis, favoring Europe and the seas bordering the continent (North Sea, English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean See as a whole). Finally, after a very restrictive selection we kept the most important (347) bibliographical quotations. Only a small samples of them will be cited in the present "summary report".

  • Grouping the field of investigation

All the selected bibliographical data were gathered under a few homogeneous chapters as "fields of investigation" as it corresponds to specific types of coastal use by man, within the frame of what can be considered as touristic and vacation activities.


Fields of investigation                               # of references


Direct effects on littoral and urbanisation               51

Tourism (ecological aspects, ecotourism, …)           94

Marine animals observations               30

Sport activities (wind-surfing, diving, jet-skis, …)              16

Amateur fishing and related activities            108

Other activities (gathering or introducing species, …)                 11

Coiral Reefs                              15

Management suggestion  107            

We have obviously encountered a certain amount of redundancy in these cross-analysis.

  • Geographical Sectors.

In the overall bibliographical data, it is worrying to note the apparent rarity of known studies concerning the European area sensu lato, and the entire Mediterranean location since the latter represents the premier touristic pole (Miller 1993, Miller & Auyong 1991). We intend to treat these areas as a whole without separating them. The relative paucity of bibliographic references concerning Europe and more specifically the Mediterranean is linked to several reasons:

  • the European scientists' lack of interest for studies dealing with applied environmental research and more their reluctance to publish this type of articles in scholarly reviews.
  • the secretive attitude which persists and even prevails at all levels of administrations, whether national or local government. Most preliminary studies on impact and the numerous follow-ups, are not widely distributed. An abundant, often valid but so called "grey literature" exists but is not distributed outside the narrow subscribers'circles. Therefore, it is never quoted, analyzed or used externally, and a fortiori by the large international data banks. This type of literature which has never been really validated is difficult to "exploit". We will note with the exception of Italy (Cencini et al 1988, Spoto & Franzosini 1991), that such studies are rarely published as books, no matter was the quality.

Fortunately, on a global scale, there are geographical areas where an abundant and pertinent bibliography can be found. By pertinent, we mean that, given the global conditions of the milieu (temperate zones, cold to warm), the general social level, the financial means of the tourists and their demands in qualitative and quantitative terms as to their recreational needs, these conditions can be compared to those which prevail in Western Europe. These geographical areas are:

  • the United of America and Canada, plus Mexico
  • South Africa
  • South America, notably in its cold temperate zone
  • Australia where collected documents concern essentially and obviously the "Great Barrier" and its associated coral reefs.

4) Territorial Limits

We consider that our field of investigation, in terms of territoriality, fits into the marine domain, we limited ourselves to the upper limit of the high spring tides or their equivalent for the tideless seas, including lagoons and tidal marshes and outward to the open sea, for the benthic zones, the circalittoral depths accessible by scuba diving. For high seas, we choose not to limit ourselves in any way the touristic activities such as observation of marine mammals and commercial fishing.

Tourism in the littoral zone as a direct influence on the shoreline through constructions and infrastructure in addition to the peregrinations of tourists observing marine birds and mammals (cliffs, dunes, strands…);

Results of the research by Fields of Investigation

  1. Attacks on the littoral (Anthony 1994)

The near totality of these attacks is linked to littoral urbanization and encompass two main types:

  • those deriving from action concerted or not, by public authorities or private or semi-public groups in the context of numerous amenities
  • and those stemming from individual interventions.
  1. Tourism as industry

Under this headnote, we have grouped the bibliographic data concerning tourism as mass phenomenom. We will consider the sociologic aspects of tourism. Miller (1993) noted that: "Marine tourism has surfaced as a pressing topic in the field of ocean and coastal management. Neither necessarily good, nor bad, this tourism is inherently controversial. Today, demand for travel exhibits greater variation and magnitude than ever in history. In response, the tourism industry has become the largest business on earth. This, coupled with the respect people profess for marine environments and local peoples, creates feelings of ambivalence for the tourist. Sociologically, the activity of tourism may be studied as a symbolic interaction fostering social solidarity. Ecotourism, a recent phenomenon attuned to the ideal of sustainable development, is suggested to emerge through the social construction processes of restoration and enhancement. Ecotourism, an activity purely for fun originally, is now more oriented towards a reasoned use of the space and amusements, it can offer (Agardy 1995). "Nature" often appreciated under the guise of ecologism cum-angelism is considered a major attraction in itself. Often, it leads to an over-use of the natural environment with ill effects vis-a-vis certain ecosystems or with regards to vegetal and animal populations that must be considered as fragile and endangered (Addessi 1994, Brosnan & Crumrine 1994, Liddle 1991). The major risks of tourism, in a broad sense, include trampling and leaving waste behind the tourists (including ecotourists).

  1. Observation

This section could integrated in the preceding one and more specifically in the sub-topic ecotourism (Bartlett & Carter 1991). We will study it on its own, since at times, very grave and often underestimated implications occur. Observation activities linked to the more pronounced taste of tourists for "nature" may have a disastrous influence on some populations of marine birds and mammals (Beach & Weinrich 1989, Corkeron 1995).

The observation of marine mammals (pinnipeds, dolphins, whales) originates for the same misguided notions. This type of tourism is on the increase in the Mediterranean meaning Italy and Greece, where private nautical activity cannot be overlooked. Local fishermen who are well aware of the best observation sites augment their meager salaries without the hardships of their trade. The expansion of these activities sustained by a fascination of the public and the lucrative rewards it represents for the locals, leads us to believe that they will keep on increasing. We must keep in mind that they already have shown disastrous results over the planet.

  1. Sport activities

The most popular activity is scuba diving which is practiced on a global scale even if restricted mostly to tropical and warm temperate-seas (Davis & Tisdell 1995). Scuba diving could be paired with "sea-watching". One would have Laminaria-watching, Posidonia-watching, Coralligenous-watching, cave-watching , etc.. Another type of ecotourism so to speak, but much "sports oriented" than the afore-mentioned type. Scuba fishing is usually totally illicit excepted for a few licensed fishermen. The harvesting of very spectacular marine species protected or not, and the looting of ancient shipwrecks have been too often observed but it is impossible to think that these habits have vanished. These kinds of activities can have disastrous results. In the 50.s, the mere publication of an article in an Italian newspaper meant the destruction, over a few weeks'time of what used to be the most beautiful Mediterranean colony of Zoanthidae Gerardia salvagia, unfortunately if innocently mistaken for the famous "Black Coral" of the East African coasts.

  1. Sport fishing and related activities

Under this title, we will gather a large number of diverse activities (Roux 1994). The strong link in this field of investigation is fishing i.e. harvesting without commercial goals, of marine organism generally thought of as edible. This type of activity, a priori ludic, is practiced either from a boat or on foot (F.F.PM. 1998, Garcia Rubies & Zabala 1990)

The problem posed by this "non-professional" or more aptly put, "non conventional" fishing, have been known for a long time. As early as may 1894, Professor Gourret in his work "La Provence des Pêcheurs" wrote a propos non conventional fishing: "Hunting is a pastime and cannot be associated with fishing which is a trade. Amateurs and retired people are comparable to hunters, and as such, should be allowed to practice this pastime only from mid-August to the end of January. Their participation to the depleting of our seas is far from insignificant. Sunday-fishing's annual take is all the more considerable since fishermen are numerous and "very good at it"!".

To this type of fishing are linked, sui generis, harbors and related activities, anchoring and bait-harvesting all non neutral activities (Mauvais 1990, Mauvais et al. 1991).

At this juncture,we need to insist on equipping the touristic zones with artificial reefs (Brock 1994). They allow for attractive "sport-fishing" and an increase in interesting diving activities for the devotees of scuba-diving. They allow to concentrate and facilitate the increase of fishing resources in situ, which as well as reduce criminal professional practices. They also encourage a significant increase in commercially suitable species, which does not explicitly fall within the confine or our present investigation. Artificial reefs are becoming more and more popular all over the world, notably in Japan, the United States and Italy (Relini & Relini-Orsi 1995). Their implantation and immersion must correspond to specific rules linked to the protection of the natural milieu and good littoral management.

  1. Coral Reefs

We are referring very explicitly, to Tropical Reefs which, a priori, do not concern the Mediterranean (Hawkins & Roberts 1994). They have been thoroughly studied in the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea within the same frame of reference which concern us, and it is possible to make good use of the vast experience acquired in those studies as well as the propositions made and the management and protection achieved there (Planes & Doherty 1994).

  1. Management

Conservationist encounters many problems while trying to protect the natural patrimony along the littoral; among those we will insist on:

  • the rarity or rather the lack of scientific knowledge,
  • the multiple conflicts of uses aggravated by the lack of control from the multiple levels of government, holding on to their power to intervene, each anxious to preserve its prerogatives.
  • the fact that the concept of coastal zone is too often restricted to its marine component (waters, maritime domain of the State) thus neglecting the land zone and everything else having to do with the surrounding land basin.

We will take into account these three essential facts as we organize our thinking in the field of investigation and later in the study proposals that will be brought about. Among the most crucial problems which the natural environment manager must face, are:

  • the multiplication and expansion of marinas
  • in the protected areas, while the various restrictions imposed on their use are often more alleged that real, parks and reserves are immediately advantageous to coastal populations. Commercial fishermen are the first beneficiaries and the cachet lent by the creation of these infrastructures to the surrounding region is always positive vis-a-vis tourism.

For after all, tourism has to be considered as the second, if not the first industry in numerous coastal areas (Miller 1993, Miller & Auyong 1991).


General considerations

In 1990, Sawaragi, the Moderator of the 3rd Session "Appropriate Use of Enclosed Sea" at the Internationale Conférence "Environmental Management and Appropriate Use of Enclosed Coastal Sea" (EMEC's90 1990) wrote: "apart from these Reports on practical examples, in general many of the presentations were extremely theorical in nature, and even the practical examples were merely current status reports. There were few reports on the effectiveness of the measures, no doubt due in part to the lack of sufficient time having passed to permit proper evaluation. This is regrettable, as is the fact it is impossible to obtain sufficient basic and reference materials suitable for use"

Substantial progress in our knowledge of various impacts caused by tourism in the broad sense of the term and all water sports on the natural coastal milieus. Although we were able to verify the range of our understanding of present conditions, we must allow that our knowledge is too often based on the sole observation of the deeds-and misdeeds- of tourism. Moreover, this knowledge derived from studies of a dubiously practical nature. Without underestimating these fundamental facts, we must consider them in a different light and which will eventually help with management and decision-making.

Another important point touches on the small amount of experimental study. Beyond the difficulty to experiment in the natural marine milieu, a concrete and realistic direction must be given to this experimentation (Underwood & Kennelly 1990). The difficulty lies in setting experimental protocols elaborate enough to effectively prove either the innocuity or the danger of each practice with regard to the natural milieu and therefore prepare solutions to protect and manage the environment.

Finally, we need to insist on the strong emotional current underlying a number of practices, uses and behaviors by the public involved in the "Consequences of sport and leisure activities on marine Flora and Fauna". Without trespassing in a field of studies outside ours we wish to propose right now that research of a sociological order be undertaken although we don't intend to define this any further (Micalleff 1996, Peyton & Gigliotti 1989). We would hope that "naturalists" with a solid knowledge of basic data on the natural environment, and for whom Man is simply another species and not a topic of study per se, be utilized to define studies

Proposals for Research axes

  • Compilation of all studies ordered by the State and its decentralized Services, local Collectivities and by any other entity of an industrial, commercial or research order -without any restrictions- answering to the State or these local Collectivities. This compilation is nearly impossible to achieve a priori globally but must be considered as a priority whenever a study or a research project is launched in a geographical area. The data collected from these multiple studies must be validated and will serve as a point of comparison in a timeline.
  • Preliminary definition of priority species and Ecosystems. This definition is in progress for the Mediterranean under the auspices of the Barcelona Convention. The notion of priority Habitat (in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the term) must be defined and these "Habitats" found and mapped along the coastline. The French ZNIEFFs-mer System, the Italian document "Biocenosi dei mari italiani" of the Italian Ministry of Environment, the European Project EUNIS and the Natura 2000 Network will serve as a foundation.
  • Observation on direct and indirect impact by tourists and sportsmen on the natural environment, for each one of the large biotops (or ecosystems) present on the littoral (dunes, leaches, rocky platiers, etc…) (Bellan-Santini et al. 1994, Dauvin 1997). It is essential to measure the impact on populations and communities (or habitats) (Underwood & Kennelly 1990). These studies must take into account quantitative and qualitative data about the physical and chemical environment of the affected site as well as the biological components. Experiment in situ will be systematically proposed. The major risk comes obviously from the trampling and more generally from the traffic of pedestrians and vehicles of all types. This aspect of the problem must be dealt with, first. Research must be conducted on the artificialization of biotops, a consequence of the cleaning of the sites popular with tourists, vacationers and sportsmen.
  • "Observation", ashore or at sea, must be studied as a factor directly disturbing the observed species (birds, marine mammals) and, indirectly, the Habitats. Observation is not neutral. Its impact must be known. One must be cautious as to the experimentations to be conducted. Their protocols must be precisely adapted in order not to introduce new imbalances. Studies on fish populations and the damage caused to certain species (gorgons, coral, species prized for their beauty) in site popular with divers must be undertaken in the same spirit as above mentioned.
  • The impact of all types of fishing by amateurs (from land, by boat and from individual fishing to fishing contests) must be known. Studies, including experimental ones, must be conducted on the impact of each type of fishing. Fishing on the shore at ebb tide by non-professionals in tidal seas has catastrophical consequences. A tideless sea as the Mediterranean is not spared either. The amount of fish caught during contests in Parks and Reserves and in neighboring regions, sometimes quite far away, must be considered. It is necessary to go beyond a simple calculation of number and weight of the catch. This is also true when dealing with spear-fishing in deep sea diving.
  • It is crucial to research which forms of "touristic" activities could prove to be indirectly beneficial. The installation of artificial reefs could herald the beginning of solutions to numerous problems: trawling in forbidden zones, overfishing in poor or mediocre zones, uncontrollable concentrations of divers, etc. The methods for studying artificial reefs are completely codified nowadays. Italian specialists are undeniably among the best experts in the matter.
  • The "Reserve-effect" needs to be taken into consideration (Boudouresque 1990). For more than a century now (Marion 1887), it has been commonly accepted that the setting aside of certain areas, however small they may be, has a beneficial effect. It is highly important to quantify it, in exiting reserves. Study protocols and techniques to be used are identical to those used in the framework of the preceding proposals. These reserves can, at the same time, be used as reference-sites.
  • This list is non-exhaustive.

Finally, we must point out that the action of pollutants, and more generally speaking, anthropic activities on the marine environment have been well documented. We also possess a good expertise in the restoration of this milieu following the cessation of these pollutants. It would be opportune to get reacquainted with this rich world literature, especially the Mediterranean ones by inserting it in the knowledge and thought process of the teams in charge of these programs. It could be used as the basis or as experimental examples allowing the teams to speed up the process of the experiments and proposed studies.

We deliberately took a position which could be construed as too "managerial", when in fact we looked to list all the elements necessary "to know better to manage better" (EMECS'90 1990, Mauvais 1996, OCDE 1993).

This leads us to enter the framework of interdisciplinary research. Our proposals make sense only if the human and financial costs that might derive from their in situ practical application are at least, estimated, but that will remain a task for the economists (Conseil de l'Eurpoe 1996, OCDE 1993, UNESCO 1997). Finally, it would be useless for the biologist to make recommandations however pertinent they may be, if these were not translated in Norms (Rules and Regulations) to make them applicable. This will be left to jurists (Mesnard 1993, Teinturier 1994).

The alliance of naturalist disciplines, in their most integrating and least restrictive aspects, with sociological, economical and judicial disciplines within their maritime specialities is an absolute necessity. Their participation in research and proposals towards a reasoned, efficient, durable management of the marine environment subjected to tourist activities must be systematically promoted.

In conclusion, we wish to quote Sarawagi (1990), the Coordinator of the 3rd Session "Appropriate Use of Enclosed Sea" at the International Conference "Environmental Management and Appropriate Use of Enclosed Coastal Sea" who concluded:

"It goes without saying that the appropriate use of the ocean regions must be decided not only by developers but through the cooperation of the people who use or live in these regions"

Acknowledgements: This contribution is a Summary of a Contract granted to us by the French Ministry of Environment, through the Service du Patrimoine Naturel of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle of Paris. The late Hervé Maurin was at this time, the Director of the Service du Patrimoine Naturel (Institut d'Écologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité). So long, Hervé! The English (US) translation is due to Pr. A. B. Davies, French and Italian Department, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. She is used to help us in this matter.


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