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 News - 22-Oct-2013

Mauritius Exploits Ocean Resources To Boost Tourism

Plans by the Mauritius government to make use of its enormous ocean resources could not only boost sustainability but also encourage tourism to the island nation, according to a recent report from government officials.

The tourism sector in Mauritius has steadily developed over the past decade and features strongly within the local economy, ranking third after agriculture and marketing. A recent slowing down in the number of visitors taking advantage of travel to Mauritius has been linked to the global economic crisis.

Ocean Economy

Prime minister Dr Navichandra Ramgoolam recently announced a plan to tap in to the vast waters surrounding Mauritius to create an 'ocean economy'. The island has an exclusive economic zone of almost 2.4 million square kilometres available to use in ways that could both expand the economy and protect it from external blows.

The island already benefits from an ocean-related GDP contribution of around 11.5%, with marine pharmaceuticals, ocean energy, and seaport related activities making up some of the ways that Mauritius is utilising the benefits of the surrounding Indian Ocean waters. Plans to develop the ocean economy by boosting marine tourism, fisheries, and aquaculture have been included in a draft of an ocean economy road map, with a finalised version due in October.

Marine Tourism

News of the ocean-related plans has led to concerns that the local marine life will suffer in the attempt to build up the economy. Milan Meetarbhan, ambassador of Mauritius to the United Nations, has advised that the health of the ocean economy will always depend on the wellbeing of the ocean and steps will be taken to ensure that all approaches are sustainable ones.

Experts have stepped in to observe current marine activity so that changes to the environment and marine life can be monitored, and rules can be drawn up and enforced. In the case of marine tourism, the regional wildlife will be protected by regulations stipulating the types of boats used for certain activities, the distances to be maintained and, in the case of dolphin swimming, the number of people participating in the activity at any one time.

Marine Pharmaceuticals and Deep Ocean Water Applications

The Mauritius Oceanography Institute led by Doctor Daniel Marie is already keeping an inventory of one of the many marine organisms in the waters, the marine sponge. Marine sponges have great potential in the search for cancer drugs and it is believed that there are possibly eight other marine organisms with the ability to aid medical research.

Deep ocean water applications (DOWA) include an ambitious plan to pump cold water from ocean depths of around 1,000 metres to the surface to cool buildings before being returned to the source. The DOWA network could significantly reduce CO2 emissions through electricity savings and make a massive impact on the island nation’s carbon footprint.

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