This week’s “Ocean Defender”, Chloe Harvey, is a marine biologist and professional diver working internationally to drive sustainable dive tourism through the Green Fins programme. Chloe believes strongly in the concept of Green Fins; to unite governments and the industry key-players to apply environmental standards and drive a sustainable industry. She’s also passionate about the educational aspect of Green Fins having always felt that this is the best way to inspire behavioural change. Chloe works within a team at Reef-World, the lead technical partner of UNEP for Green Fins. UW360 caught up with Chloe for a quick Q&A:
What got you into marine biology?
I was a diver by the age of 12 and a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Assistant Instructor by 15. I was always fascinated by the underwater world and wanted to know more about how it worked. At the same time I was really enjoying science at school. After learning about marine biology during a college open day there wasn’t a question in my mind about what I wanted to study at University.
What’s the hardest thing/best thing about your job?
I’m responsible for the international development and delivery of Green Fins, a programme aiming to enhance environmental sustainability within the diving and snorkelling industry. Alongside the Reef-World team, I am committed to partnering with governments to achieve this. In each country we work in, we position relevant authorities at the centre of everything we do, empowering and inspiring them to promote sustainable diving activities within their country. The payout is great; we’ve changed laws, we’ve influenced the way departments are run, we’ve changed job roles so that government employees learn to dive as part of their jobs. At the same time, this aspect of my job is extremely frustrating. Key personnel are often moved without a moment’s notice and change generally takes time.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen/discovered while on the job?
While assessing dive centres’ environmental credentials I’ve witnessed some pretty insane behaviour above and below the water over the years. But I think the craziest was watching a high profile underwater photographer uprooting and moving a gorgonian fan to create a better scene for a photograph. He’s well known for promoting environmental messages through his work. My regulator fell from my mouth as my jaw dropped.
What do you hope to achieve through your work?
10 years ago I was sat with a head honcho from a major global tour operator for hotels and he said that tourists aren’t demanding sustainable holidays, they expect it. I want this to be the case in the diving industry. I want to be part of an industry where a dive guide receives better tips for explaining the ecological reasoning of natural behaviour observed on dives, instead of having to harass marine life for entertainment of customers. Or to hear that dive centres stop providing their guests with water in single use plastic bottles, because the customers simply won’t accept it. Or to see that underwater photographers are receiving international recognition for employing skills to minimise environmental impact. I want to be part of a change within the industry, so that the most sustainable choice is no longer a sacrifice, but the one that makes business, and professional, sense.
Who is your marine biology role model?
Niphon Phongsuwan, a coral reef biologist and leader of marine conservation in Thailand. It’s rare that you meet extremely good scientists who are also amazing communicators; Niphon was the first person to teach me that both are possible. Along with his ability to consider the bigger picture in every conservation conundrum, he also consistently prioritises engaging all sectors and communities in conservation efforts. He also believed in me, as a fresh-out-the-UK faced 23 year old, and introduced me to Green Fins which is why I’m doing what I’m doing today.
What do you think lies ahead for marine ecosystems?
Our marine ecosystems face unprecedented threat; they are showing great signs of stress and reduction in health globally. This is a direct result of human actions and choices made in the past and today. During my work across Southeast Asia over the past 10 years, I have seen a huge change in the awareness to marine conservation issues within the younger generation. I have great confidence in the leaders of tomorrow making the choices past generations should have made 50 years ago to protect our oceans. Whether this will be fast enough to save our marine life, I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to being part of that change.
What can the average person do to help protect life in the oceans?
Daily choices we all make have a huge impact. The choice to drink from single use plastic straws, to drive two minutes to a supermarket instead of walk, or to buy jewellery made from marine life. Sometimes smart living can seem overwhelming. You see people who are completely dedicated to that way of life and you know your lifestyle simply couldn’t adjust to that change. That’s okay. Just make small changes which are manageable, give it a go, the collective impact would be huge. And of course, choose a Green Fins dive centre on your next dive trip and always be a responsible diver (see the Green Fins guide here).