Author: Anne Rutten, The Reef-World Foundation
Scuba diving is one of the fastest growing tourism industries. With approximately one million newly certified divers each year, the dive tourism industry can stimulate economic growth, create jobs and business opportunities, helping to improve people’s livelihoods. However, the growing industry also increases the pressure on the local social structures and environmental ecosystems.
Poor planning for new infrastructure can have drastic impacts on the natural resources that are drawing tourists in the first place. For example, cutting down mangroves has knock-on effects on coastal erosion and coral reef health; more trash generated puts additional pressure on waste management, especially in areas that are already struggling; and new activities like snorkelling can lead to new threats like fish feeding.
Climate change is widely quoted as the single greatest threat to coral reefs, responsible for mass ecosystem damage. Together with increasing pollution, overfishing and habitat loss, our oceans seem to be fighting a losing battle. There are a vast array of local impacts caused by the dive and snorkelling industry that are adding to the cocktail of threats, many of which are often overlooked or underestimated in their potential to impact the environment.
When divers touch, kick or chase and harass marine life, this results in a direct pressure on corals. Holding onto a coral removes a protective layer on the animal. When this layer is removed, the coral has to spend energy growing a replacement layer instead of using this energy to fight off other pressures, such as cleaning itself from increasing sedimentation or trying to cope with increasing temperatures. If a diver touches or holds onto multiple corals, viruses could spread from one diseased coral to another providing yet another stress. If a diver decides to feed the fish, they are no longer scavenger feeding on detritus and marine algae found on the corals, which leads to corals having to clean themselves. This is more energy wasted for the corals.
Other possible threats can be manipulating marine life for photos, using bleach to wash the marine toilet, dropping anchor on live coral, or allowing dive staff to throw up to 100kg of food a week off the dive boat – just to name a few! These are all additional pressures which we, as divers, have the power to remove.
Sustainable development of the diving industry is therefore of paramount importance. Your business directly depends on a healthy and diverse marine environment, which means that if you want to keep your business running for many more years to come, your dive sites must be kept in the best condition possible. One way of achieving that is through Green Fins, the only internationally recognised environmental standard for the scuba-diving and snorkelling industry; created by the UN Environment in partnership with The Reef-World Foundation.
The initiative aims to educate and empower the industry by providing pragmatic marine conservation tools and practices to its members. Dive centres and snorkel operators can join as members free of charge and become part of a growing international community committed to the long-term survival of their businesses.
The international coordinators of Green Fins, Reef-World Foundation, are always on the look out for new ways to elevate the business benefits of Green Fins members. The latest partnership established with Divebooker values Green Fins membership by providing a zero commission rate on bookings made through the platform.
Nature and economy are linked and both are needed to sustain each other, so protect your business with Green Fins. It will help you meet the growing market demand for sustainable diving practices whilst giving you all the solutions to make the daily challenge of running an environmentally responsible operation easier and easier.
Read more about this partnership and hear from the members themselves on the second part of this story!