Using coastal participation to explore changes to environmental impacts post COVID-19

Dr Jaz Lawes1, Shane Daw1

1Surf Life Saving Australia, Sydney, New South Wales


Environmental impacts of tourism and recreation are complex and often linked to visitor numbers. Associated environmental pressures include pollution, degradation, natural habitat loss, erosion, and increased demands on local resources and infrastructure. Recent unprecedented combination of geopolitical and environmental challenges have altered tourism and recreation profiles in Australia. Anecdotally, altered working arrangements and various restrictions placed on many Australian communities, are thought to have substantially altered behaviour and coastal participation. Popular coastal activities including swimming/wading, boating, fishing (land-based and rock), surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and watercraft (e.g. kayaks, canoes). Behavioural changes may include how coastal environments are used or which locations are visited. Using a nationally conducted survey we explore coastal participation in these popular coastal activities over time which could suggest trends of environmental impacts. How these global challenges will continue to influence the impacts placed on coastal environments remains to be seen and will probably be dependent on the longevity of their impacts. Coastal ecosystems are known to be resilient and with careful management and increased awareness, coastal environments can be restored relatively quickly. Domestic tourism profiles are expected to drive environmental pressures, but also present opportunities for exploration and deeper connection with our own backyard and increasing community understanding of how it can be conserved.


Jaz is an impact ecologist interested in human interactions with the environment. Her role as national researcher at Surf Life Saving Australia, includes t coordinating a diverse portfolio of coastal safety research projects. Jaz believes education and awareness strategies driven by evidence-based research are the most effective tool to transform attitudes and change behaviours to enhance public safety within our incredible coast.