The delicate balance between visitor numbers and maintaining a healthy ecosystem looks set to be tested by a startling increase in sealife in Marlborough Sounds as well as damage to green tourism sites in Hawke’s Bay. In a survey in August, the biggest number of visitors in 25 years came to watch seals at Coatesville on the South Island in eastern New Zealand. In 1998, a total of 28,200 people visited the area. Five other areas were also popular with seal watchers: Ootonga, Honeysuckle Bay, Karapa, Jervis Bay and Mittagong.
In Marlborough Sounds, the amount of seal diversity is growing – in the north on new beaches and rookeries on the southern coast as well as on southern coastlines.
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Also, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst bleaching since 2002 as sea temperatures continue to rise, said scientists from the University of Queensland. Males and females are now experiencing warm days without any bleaching in the worst hit area – between Cairns and south-east Queensland.
In Cook Strait, other natural wonders – including dolphins and whales – are also drawing more people who are not keeping track of the health of the habitat. In Fiji and Vanuatu, US military bases in the Coral Sea are also attracting tourists while in Australia, thousands of visitors, mostly on charter boats, visit Cooks Cove near Port Hedland in the Pilbara region on a quest for the Great White.