Newfoundland and Labrador is known worldwide for its pristine natural heritage, which attracts tourism and results in economic benefits for the province. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador has dedicated protection to many of these natural areas, and continuously works to create more protected areas.
However, although these protected areas are established to preserve significant features, such as specific species and habitat, it also leads to ecotourism -- an emerging economic value that is a result of our natural heritage and significant features. Increased tourist activity, although economically beneficial, may also introduce some added threats and pressures to the area that is protected as well as the feature for which the protected area was established in the first place.
For example, the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is bombarded daily by guided tour boats full of tourists excited to see the birds that reside on the island. However, the birds experience constant pressure and are influenced by the fast speed these boats travel, etc. The operators of these boat tours (if provided with some basic education on the lifestyle, needs and culture of these birds) could potentially deliver a much better tour and at the same time protect the birds and educate the passengers on the tour by explaining a few general points about the birds and their culture. This would allow the operators to do their part in ensuring that the birds are protected while creating a healthy sustainable environment for them. The operators realize that it is the birds that are providing their livelihood and as a result they will want to protect them by all possible means. Furthermore, they would be educating local people and tourists to do the same. Operators would be further encouraged to participate and use this knowledge since overall it could potentially increase the quality of their operation and services they provide.
With the rapid increase of ecotourism to Newfoundland and Labrador it is evident that responsible tourism and recreation activities need to be encouraged in order to ensure that people are able to enjoy these natural areas now and in the future without leaving any footprints and to make certain that the ecological integrity of the area is not threatened. For this reason, CPAWS Newfoundland and Labrador has embarked upon a multi year project designed to encourage responsible tourism to operators, tourists and the general public with the goal that this will lead to increased protection for our significant features, species and habitats. This project will serve to identify and list key natural areas, both protected and potential protected areas, across Newfoundland and Labrador where ecotourism has increasingly grown over the past several year while distinguishing the potential threats that tourist activities may have on the natural area.
This project will develop a plan in areas where there isn't already a current program to encourage responsible tourism and recreation activities and summarize this into a user-friendly brochure. It also includes an education campaign to educate tourist providers and users with some easy to follow steps that will ensure that these natural areas and species are not threatened for the sake of their current enjoyment and simple carelessness, thereby increasing the level of protection afforded to these important areas and also increasing the effectiveness of ecotourism. This project is supported by Environment Canada's EcoAction Community Funding Program.
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