Dive professionals on the front line of coral reef protection

Tracey Jennings

The Reef-World Foundation is the international coordinator of the UN Environment’s Green Fins initiative. Green Fins focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally and can be used by governments in their efforts to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 14 (Life below water) and 12 (Responsible consumption and production).

In this interview, JJ Harvey (Director of the Reef-World Foundation) talks about the Green Fins initiative, the new Dive Guide e-Course and why it’s so important.

Tell us about the problems associated with diving-related damage to coral reefs.

Diving-related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. It is estimated that 88 per cent of divers make harmful contact with the reef at least once during a dive. A single dive site can suffer more than 200,000 damaging incidents per year, from trampling and kicking coral with fins, deliberately breaking coral for keepsakes, and destructive boat anchorage. This damage makes corals less likely to survive other stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris. Another important stressor is climate change, where rising sea temperatures can lead to coral disease outbreaks or bleaching.

What is Green Fins and how does the initiative help protect coral reefs?

Green Fins is the only set of internationally recognized environmental standards for dive and snorkel operators, established through a partnership between UN Environment and us, The Reef World Foundation. It uses a unique and proven three-pronged approach: green certifications of dive centres, strengthening regulations and environmental education for dive staff, divers and government.

Experience over 11 years has shown that this unique conservation management approach leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. So, using the Green Fins approach, we’re working to tackle direct threats to corals from dive and snorkel operators, whilst working with governments, tour operators and equipment manufacturers to make sustainable diving the social norm. By reducing the pressures tourism puts on corals, we aim to make reefs healthier and more resilient.

What is the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and why was it launched?

The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, which we launched thanks to the support of Professional SCUBA Schools, is the only course for dive professionals that teaches how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards-as set out by the Green Fins initiative-while guiding guests in coral environments. We hope the course will help protect coral reefs all over the world, leading to the direct reduction of diver-related damage to coral reefs.

Why is the course aimed at scuba professionals?

Scuba professionals have the ability to positively influence diver behaviour and this course helps them better manage their guests to prevent damage to the reef, helping to protect coral and other marine life one dive at a time. The course enables dive guides to become more environmentally aware, understand the main environmental threats posed by diving and snorkelling, and learn to minimize those threats. It does so by teaching them how to influence and control their guests whilst providing an increased level of customer service.

What is involved in the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course?

The course provides dive professionals with three modules of easy-to-follow content and tests on an intuitive, user-friendly platform. It covers techniques such the pre-dive environmental briefing, positive role model behaviour and how to stop customers (including underwater photographers) touching coral whilst diving-all of which have proved effective to reduce the level of coral damage associated with diving. It also includes information about coral reef biology, the Green Fins approach, the importance of protecting coral reefs and management techniques (both above and below the water) that will help dive guides reduce their negative environmental impact on reefs. There is a short test at the end of each module which dive professionals must pass in order to finish the course and, while the course itself is free, they have the option of purchasing a certificate if they wish.

Why is this course so important for dive professionals?

Many divers now expect, and demand, environmentally aware guides so being a positive role model not only protects the underwater environment, but can also result in better employability and, potentially, more tips!

How can dive professionals sign up?

It’s easy and free to take the course. Just visit the website to sign up and take the course.

Source: UN Environment article.

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