SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 11, April 2016 - Page 22

Save our reefs with the

Green Fins Toolbox

ourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world with well over a billion tourists travelling the globe each year, and the Asia Pacific region has the fastest growing tourism sector of

them all. With warm temperatures, interesting cultures and outstanding biodiversity, it’s no surprise. Tourism has brought numerous benefits to the region’s environment, the industry provides alternative employment in areas that traditionally have relied on the exploitation of natural resources. Fishers are now dive guides and boat crew and communities are employed in the related tourism services of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

However, with great business, comes great responsibility. Whilst diving isn’t on par with large scale threats like climate change, intensive diving tourism can drastically reduce a coral reef’s ability to be resilient and survive growing threats. Those of us who have seen big groups of divers or amateur photographers ploughing through the reef have felt the anguish of witnessing completely preventable destruction. And multiply that by several dive groups on a dive site, several times a day, 365 days a year and it all adds up.

For some of us, it’s a no brainer – you’re a visitor on the reef and you remember your manners. For others, especially some who were trained in temperate waters, it’s a case of not being aware. No one explained that coral is a fragile animal, no one explained that one touch can remove protective coatings and leave whole colonies susceptible to disease, no one explained that there were manners to be had on a reef.

For dive operators, every day is a balance between customer service and safety and environmental protection. There aren’t many of us that like to be lectured on holiday, and the power of the tourist dollar means that dive guides who see the damage to their business asset – the reef – often are left feeling hopeless and unable to correct a customer in fear of loosing out on a much needed tip or getting reprimanded by management.

Luckily, a bunch of divers and marine conservationists have been working for over 10 years with dive centres in some of the busiest tourist destinations in the world to collect the most useful and practical solutions to these common challenges and package them up into the Green Fins Toolbox. The Toolbox contains a host of educational posters (http://www.greenfins.net/downloads) for you to freely share and display, simple guides to best practice and environmental activities and a series of Operational Handbooks (http://greenfins.net/handbooks) offering step by step guidance to following environmental standards for business managers, resource managers and decision makers. This Toolbox will enable the Green Fins standards, as the world’s only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkeling industry, to permeate the global industry.

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