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Marine Life & Conservation

The Bahamas to Ban Plastic Bags

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On January 3rd, 2018, the Bahamas Plastic Movement’s youth delegation from the island of Eleuthera, travelled to Nassau, New Providence to meet the Minister of Environment and Housing, The Hon. Romauld Ferreira, to propose the need for a nationwide ban on plastic bags for the country. The self-proclaimed “Plastic Warriors”, members of the environmental NGO Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM), visited the Ministry of Environment’s Charlotte House office in Nassau, where they presented a thorough presentation on the economic and environmental implications of plastic pollution in The Bahamas.

Single use, disposable plastic items such as plastic bottles, straws, cups, styrofoam and plastic bags are known to be a nuisance in the environment. Plastic bags in particular are used in abundance within the country, globally up to 1 trillion plastic bags are used annually.  Used on average for around 12 minutes, these extremely lightweight and aerodynamic plastic bags escape with the wind, evading trash cans and local landfills before eventually polluting our environment and finally making their way to the ocean before severely harming marine life such as whales, turtles and seabirds.

“In our country, single use plastic items are commonly used and is very bad for the environment because it is a non-biodegradable material, so it just persists in our environment for an extended period of time, especially on our beaches where they may deter tourists”, states BPM’s Ocean Ambassador Genderia Francis.

Approximately 70% of visitors to the Bahamas said that their decision to visit was influenced by its beaches. Recent scientific research suggests that if the rate of litter on a beach increases to 15 litter items per square meter, that would deter 85% of users, causing up to US$8.5 million in tourism losses annually. “Plastic bags are a major issue in this country as they are commonly used in businesses, so we wanted to confront this issue head on and propose a nationwide ban on plastic bags”, continued Francis.

Leading up to their meeting with Minister Ferreira, the students participated in a Youth Activism Workshop hosted by BPM. Over the course of four days, students learned to conduct social science surveys to gather data on the amount of plastic bags used by locals on a daily basis. They also learned about the legislative process of The Bahamas. After reviewing several case studies of countries around the world with effective plastic bag bans in place, the students successfully drafted a legally binding bill for a plastic bag regulation for The Bahamas, which was then presented to the Minister. The first phase of the proposed regulation requested a levy on plastic bags for businesses and an imposed plastic bag tax for consumers wishing to receive a plastic bag at the point of sale.

Combining their knowledge of plastic pollution with their research findings, proposed draft bill and effective communication skills, these plastic warriors successfully built an engaging and informative presentation that was a call to action for Minister Ferreira and a guide to leading The Bahamas “Towards a Plastic Free Future . Courageously, the “Plastic Warriors”, composed of, Charma Morley (15), Traliyah Carey (15), Glenderia Francis (16), Abigail Ramnarine (10) and Tarryn Johnson (14), marched into the Minister’s office and clearly outlined what action steps were required of the Ministry of Environment. The team recommended 1) a partnership between the Ministry of Environment and Bahamas Plastic Movement to launch a national plastic pollution education campaign, 2) The Hon. Romauld Ferreira, Minister of the Environment and Housing agrees to push legislation for a plastic bag ban in The Bahamas by the end of the first quarter 2018 and 3) The Bahamas agrees to join the UNEP Clean Seas Initiative which is a global Call to Action for governments to introduce regulations and incentives to tackle marine debris.

“Someone has to make the change for our generation and if we don’t do it, no one else will, so we have to be the voice of our community and make a change in society” says, Charma Morley, BPM Ocean Ambassador.

Following the presentation, Minister Ferreira, expressed his gratitude, contentment and pride for the courage and commitment displayed by the “plastic warriors”. To the surprise of the group, he proposed to ban plastic bags completely in The Bahamas, followed by various types of single use plastics such as Styrofoam. The Minister revealed that the Ministry of Environment has been working diligently on formulating and pushing regulations with Parliament that address plastic use in the country and agrees that through laws and swift action, we will be able to mitigate plastic pollution in The Bahamas.

At the 2018 Abaco Science Alliance Conference hosted by Friends of the Environment on January 4th, Minister Ferreira publicly announced his plans to move forward with a plastic bag ban for The Bahamas, joining a growing list of more than 40 countries who have already implemented plastic bag bans.

To learn more about the organization and ways to decrease your plastic footprint, visit www.bahamasplasticmovement.org.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder and Project Leader of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores.

Ana Filipa Sobral is a marine biologist and conservationist based in the Azores Islands. She moved to the Azores in 2011 and once there, realised that this was one of the few places in the world where Sicklefin Devil Rays (Mobula tarapacana) gather in large groups, making it a strategic place to study them. She started the The Manta Catalog Project and through this project, collects photo ID and occurrence data on Mobulid Rays, with the precious help of divers and dive operators as citizen scientists.

Ana is also finishing her PhD which focuses on population genetics and connectivity of migratory elasmobranchs in oceanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The main goal fueling my research has been to help fill the knowledge gaps on elasmobranch biology and ecology to ultimately assist in the design of effective conservation and management plans aimed at protecting their populations in this remote region of the North Atlantic Ocean.

You can find out more about Ana’s important work at: https://mantacatalogazores.wixsite.com/mobulaid/project.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches Green Fins Japan!

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The Reef-World Foundation, the Onna Village Diving Association, the local government, and Oceana are delighted to announce that Japan is now the 14th country globally to implement the Green Fins initiative – a UN Environment Programme initiative. Onna Village in Okinawa is the first Japanese tourist destination to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is piloted in Onna Village, Okinawa prefecture, an area renowned for its marine sports and has been working to protect its reefs for many years. Green Fins is implemented as part of the national Sustainable Development Goals project, which aims to manage and illustrate to the local industry how sustainable tourism can play a role in reef conservation. The economic benefits of the reefs benefit not only the fisheries industry but also the tourism industry as it has rocketed in recent decades.

If the project is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model has the potential to be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow Reef-World to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. Green Fins implementation in Japan would provide practical solutions to many of the common problems faced in the area. It would also help to promote high standards for diving in the country. Improving the quality of the diving industry through Green Fins would demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product. This, in turn, will encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (23 to 28 May 2022), Japan now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors and two Green Fins Coordinators from Oceana and the local government. They will be responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and certifying dive and snorkel operators to become 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. Green Fins membership will help marine tourism operators improve their sustainability and prove they are working hard to follow environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are really excited to finally introduce Green Fins in Japan. We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress. The diving industry in Okinawa and the marine life upon which it has been built is so unique, it must be preserved for generations to come. The Okinawa diving community is very passionate about protecting their marine environment, and Green Fins has given them an opportunity to collectively work to reduce their environmental impact and pursue exemplary environmental standards.”

Diving and snorkelling related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris and the effects of climate change. Based on robust individual assessments, the Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support to dive and snorkel operators. Through Green Fins implementation in Japan, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 10 marine tourism operators, training 50 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in the first year.

Yuta Kawamoto, CEO of Oceana, said: “Green Fins will help to unify all the conservation efforts in Okinawa by applying the guidelines in many areas and raising tourists awareness. We hope this will increase the sustainable value in the diving industry and in turn increase the diving standards in the country.”

Green Fins is a UN Environment Programme 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. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

To date, four dive operators in Onna Village have joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Center, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club. There has also been significant interest from other operators, even those that are not located in Onna Village, for Green Fins training and assessment.

Suika Tsumita from Oceana said: “Green Fins serve as an important tool for local diving communities to move towards a more sustainable use of their dive sites; so that they can maintain their scenic beauty and biological richness to provide livelihoods for many generations to come.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or  www.greenfins.net/countries/japan. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up for Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

Dive and snorkel operators in Japan interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Japan team at japan@greenfins.net.

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