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Antigua & Barbuda Implements Environmental Standards for Diving & Snorkelling

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The Green Fins initiative hopes to reach 10,000 tourists in the next year.

The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinators of Green Fins – is pleased to announce Antigua and Barbuda has become the first English speaking country in the western hemisphere to implement the Green Fins initiative. The country is the 10th government worldwide to officially adopt Green Fins and the second in the Caribbean.

Green Fins is a UN Environment initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally-friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry.

Antigua and Barbuda, which has a population of just 100,000, received 285,000 overnight visitors and 1,000,000 cruise ship tourists in 2018. It is estimated there are over 30 businesses which provide either snorkelling or diving activities to these tourists. Reef-World hopes the initiative will significantly reduce the environmental impact on coral reefs by reaching 10,000 tourists in the next year.

The country now has a national team of 2 senior Green Fins Network leaders, 3 Green Fins assessors and 3 dive schools joining the global network of more than 560 trained and assessed Green Fins member dive and snorkel operators. Following a week of training by Reef-World, a national team comprised of the Ministry of Tourism and the Fisheries Division are now certified to recruit, train and conduct assessments of new Green Fins members in the country. This involves providing training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators.

The newly trained Green Fins Assessors will be carrying out robust assessments to evaluate the environmental impact of dive and snorkel operators and providing one-to-one consultation to help the business develop and implement best practice to improve the sustainability of the marine tourism industry. The individual feedback and support provided – which includes practical, low-cost alternatives to common threats to the marine environment such as anchoring, provision of single use plastics such as plastic bottles and lack of awareness to existing rules and regulations – is based on each company’s area of highest negative impact on the reef, as determined by the assessment.

Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance. Reducing diving and snorkelling-related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, helps to make them more resilient to other local and wider stressors, such as over fishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well the impacts from climate change, such as rising sea temperatures.

The newly qualified Green Fins assessors, who are now certified to conduct assessments of Green Fins dive centres in Antigua and Barbuda, are Trevor Joseph – Fisheries Division, Sophia Steele – Environmental Awareness Group / Fauna and Flora International and Akeem Daley – Ministry of Tourism. The dive operators who have already been trained and certified by the Green Fins initiative are: Antigua Reef Riders, Dive Carib and Jolly Dive. There has also been significant interest from other operators who have signed the Membership form and are looking forward to their training and assessment.

The implementation of Green Fins in Antigua and Barbuda was made possible through a partnership with the ethical cosmetic company Caudalie, facilitated by the 1% for the Planet movement. In addition to Caudalie helping the environment by dedicating 1% of its global sales to funding reforestation projects, the company has recently released a new reef-safe sunscreen range. By creating a range of sun care products which do not include the harmful chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, Caudalie is helping to increase the resilience of coral in areas of high tourism.

JJ Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to have received the funding from Caudalie that now allows us to implement Green Fins in Antigua and Barbuda and ensure the sustainability of both the programme and the marine tourism industry. Tourism has been growing steadily for several years and the government has shown a strong desire to pro-actively protect the country’s coral reefs and marine life through the implementation of Green Fins’ best practices and standards. This funding that now makes expansion into Antigua and Barbuda possible will not only significantly improve the diving and snorkelling industry’s conservation impact in the region but is also a huge step in the global expansion of the Green Fins network.”

Hon. Charles Fernandez, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister for Tourism and Economic Development, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity. I really applaud the initiative. I congratulate the fisheries department for collaborating with us. It is very important for tourism but even more it is important for us as a people.”

Vashti Casimir, Antigua and Barbuda’s Senior Tourism Officer Responsible for Sustainable Tourism, added: “We’re hoping that through this programme we’ll have more diving and snorkelling businesses coming on board to ensure the practices across that industry remain environmentally friendly.”

Tricia Lovell, Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer at the Fisheries Division, said: “We recognise our coral reefs are under a myriad of threats; not just from use but also from larger issues like climate change and so we figured it would be best to look at ways of improving the way we use the system. This week is just the start and a lot can come out of it and benefit the marine environment.

The funding to implement Green Fins in Antigua and Barbuda has been provided by the French cosmetic company Caudalie. The company has recently partnered with Reef-World through the 1% for the Planet movement thanks to consultative advice Caudalie received from PUR Project.

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or www.greenfins.net.

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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