The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for the dive industry to keep sustainability high on its agenda during the COVID-19 crisis.
The charity is keen to remind dive and snorkel operators of the importance of preventing environmental threats – even when they don’t have divers in the water. Reef-World’s flagship programme – Green Fins – aims to protect coral reefs by promoting a sustainable dive and snorkel industry. Because the Green Fins Code of Conduct covers the prevention of environmental threats in all aspects of a marine tourism operation, there are still many ways in which dive operators can work to reduce their environmental impact even while travel restrictions remain in place.
Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are aware this is an incredibly tough time for the diving and snorkelling industry. However, as the UNWTO said – ‘to stay home today is to travel tomorrow’. As a collaborative network we need to work together to weather this storm as best we can. Resilience is key – not only for coral reefs but also for the sector.
“While we realise it might not be possible for everyone, we recommend that those who can take this downtime to pause and prepare; having to put many other aspects of the day-to-day running of the business on hold offers operators a valuable opportunity to review all internal policies and procedures that can reduce their environmental footprint.
“A strong overarching sustainability policy should cover key environmental aspects such as: including environmental content in pre-departure documents and materials for guests; making sure staff include environmental points in their pre-dive and boat briefings; ensuring waste is minimised, recycled whenever possible; and making sure any hazardous waste (such as used engine oil or spent batteries) is collected, stored and disposed of responsibly. The Green Fins Operational Handbook is a one-stop-shop of information to help dive and snorkel operators who are currently reviewing their sustainability policies.
“As well as reviewing policies, management could also use this time to research suitable suppliers of eco-friendly cleaning products, mask defog and reef-safe sunscreen as well as reviewing internal training sessions to make sure all staff and crew are aware of any new environmental policies, or reminded of those already in place. Dive professionals who want to continue their learning from home can also take the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course for free online. Businesses could even start developing a marketing push to showcase their dedication towards protecting the environment as a way of attracting eco-minded customers who might be researching post-lockdown holiday options.
“While we appreciate this is a stressful time for members of the travel industry, putting better environmental measures in place now will help travel businesses come out stronger – and with a more sustainable business – when travel restrictions are lifted