SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 22

Who You Dive With Matters

or many travelers, a spectacular dive is the highlight of a vacation. We seek a special glimpse of the underwater world as we

glide among fascinating creatures and formations. The experience is exhilarating with the chance to see an eel or even a shark, awe-inspiring with amazing colors and textures, and relaxing with the whole sublime scene set to the rhythmic sounds of our own breathing.

But how often do we consider the impact of our dive on the environment or the local community? Who you dive with matters. With dozens of dives per week, a dive shop can have a big impact—and we aim to make it a positive one with the Blue Certified program.

Blue Certified is an eco-certification focusing on 30 best practices around sustainable diving, tourism, and business. To help dive operators run a sustainable dive business, guidance is provided on how to best manage negative impacts, such as preventing pollution with proper boat maintenance, and teaching customers responsible diving techniques that protect the reef. Criteria also focus on how to have positive impacts, such as hiring from the local community and supporting local artisans. Businesses build action plans, track their resource use, and mentor one another on how to overcome common challenges. Through the program, dive shops learn and implement the 3 P’s of sustainable business that include profit (economic), planet (environmental), and people (socio-cultural).

Developed by Ocean First Institute (OFI), in partnership with Sustainable Travel International, Blue Certified provides scuba dive operations with the tools to perform better for themselves, the environment, their community, and their customers. “Dive operators are true stewards and guardians of the ocean,” shared Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza, Executive Director of OFI. “They are deeply connected to it—and want to protect it. Through their livelihoods, their customers and their day-to-day practices, these tourism businesses have an opportunity to protect what they love.”

We are so passionate about protecting what we love that we rolled out this program with the