Reef-World has been shortlisted as a finalist in 2020’s Con X Tech Prize to help develop this digital sustainability solution
The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of Green Fins in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – has announced it has officially been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Con X Tech Prize.
The Con X Tech Prize provides opportunities for seed funding to anyone, anywhere to turn their bold new ideas for conservation into reality. The current round of the Con X Tech Prize attracted 167 submissions from around the world – including Uganda, Malaysia, Cameroon, the Philippines, Brazil, & more – and Reef-World has been named as one of the 20 finalists with the potential for exponential conservation impact. The Grand Prize Winner will be announced by Conservation X Labs after finalists complete a 12-week prototyping period.
Reef-World’s entry is the development of The Green Fins Global Hub: a digital global solution to help dive professionals protect fragile coral reefs. This first-of-its-kind online support system will motivate marine tourism operators to improve their everyday environmental practices. This product will leverage innovation to meet increasing consumer demand for sustainable tourism practices by empowering tourism organisations to minimise environmental impacts associated with their business and protect their natural assets.
Harnessing Reef-World’s 20+ years’ grassroots experience in environmental behaviour change, the Hub allows Reef-World to upscale its conservation impact by moving the proven Green Fins tools online. This will significantly boost knowledge and capacity for improved sustainability worldwide. This project has immediate potential to upscale globally: digitising Green Fins’ offering overcomes traditional capacity and time constraints. In this way, it allows Reef-World to reach previously inaccessible operators and help them take the first steps on their sustainability journey. Going digital in this way opens up an opportunity to reach 30,000 dive and snorkel operators across 100 coral reef countries. This means Reef-World can educate and empower over 48,000 guides and building sustainability into the trips of the 171 million tourists who visit coral reef sites each year. The potential cumulative impact of this on global coral reef health is significant.
This project creates a tipping point for sustainable reef tourism by helping the industry identify pressing environmental threats and providing proven solutions, such as responsible waste management measures. Complementing Green Fins’ proven conservation approach, the Hub will boost reef resilience by empowering people in biodiversity hotspots worldwide to alleviate local threats.
Tourism operators’ owners, managers, staff and crew will directly engage with the Hub for access to robust, evidence-based sustainability practices. Following online registration and self-evaluation, they will receive proven solutions for their highest environmental threats, continued access to implementation action plans, tools and resources and user forums for support and encouragement. Data captured from self-evaluations, access to solutions, tools to address threats and on-site verification assessments will also inform where strengthened policy and regulation can have the greatest impact.
The resultant measurable reduction of local threats to coral gives reefs a better chance of surviving mounting global threats. Reef resilience is a growing marine ecosystems conservation approach focusing on alleviating local threats, allowing them to be healthier, more robust & resilient to climate change impacts. Green Fins is a proven conservation approach that works in line with resilience-based management by reducing coastal ecosystems threats posed by marine tourism. It is traditionally implemented by trained government teams conducting on site environmental assessments and training. Already active in 11 countries, demand for Green Fins participation globally greatly exceeds current capacity & complementing on-the-ground activity with a novel, digital approach is required to achieve conservation impact scale.
Reef-World has already completed in-depth market research and prepared a business plan, product requirement document and sustainable finance model. By the end of the 12-week prototyping period, the charity will have: drafted a design specification document; mapped out the evaluation and onboarding processes for members; developed wireframes for the onboarding process and key sections of the system; designed a visual mock-up of the user interface; and begun collaborating with software development agencies to ensure all outputs are realistic and achievable.
James Greenhalgh, Digital Strategy Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to have been shortlisted alongside these impressive conservation innovations. There is no other product like the Global Hub on the market and our market research shows strong industry demand for a service providing this type of solution. The Hub will enable operators to train and empower their staff to adopt better environmental behaviours and collaborate with other businesses. We’re excited about the project’s potential to benefit reefs globally!”
Tom Quigley, Community Manager at Conservation X Labs, said: “The Con X Tech Prize is meant for opportunities just like this – where some funding and support through a prototyping sprint can help a product like Green Fins make a transformative leap in the scale of their impact. We’re excited to see what Reef-World builds over the prototyping period!”
Each of the 20 shortlisted teams have received $3,500 to turn their idea into a prototype over 12-weeks. At the end of the prototyping period, one project will be awarded the $20,000 grand prize to support the future of their project.
Reef-World has already secured funding for this project from the United Nations Environment Programme, The Matthew Good Foundation, and G-Research and is continuing to fundraise to cover the remaining development costs.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. Its flagship initiative, Green Fins, is implemented in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). This proven, established approach focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. By driving compliance to marine tourism environmental standards, Green Fins helps to reduce local threats to coral reefs in popular tourism destinations. It unites tourism organisations, governments and operators to preserve natural resources by implementing proven sustainability measures.
To see the full list of 20 finalists please click here.
PADI Teams Up with Wellness Brand Neuro to Drive Ocean Change and Create a Blue State of Mind
Together launching a whale-inspired limited-edition tin to fund ocean conservation
Ocean lovers and wellness enthusiasts can join PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) and Neuro® functional gum and mints in creating positive ocean change.
The two leading lifestyle and purpose-driven brands have united in a shared mission that is born out of the transformational powers of the water and are offering a streamlined way to enhance your wellbeing and that of the ocean. Throughout the year, they will be releasing a collection of two limited edition re-usable Neuro x PADI tins designed to be used with all the bulk Neuro bag products, with 20% of profits donated to PADI AWARE FoundationTMand $100K USD committed to the world’s largest purpose-driven diving organisation’s non-profit charity by the end of 2024.
The first of the co-branded tins that are now available for purchase showcases artwork created by Neuro co-founder Kent Yoshimura, who is also a renowned mural artist and depicts a whale breaching in the ocean.
“The whale is symbolic of how everything is interconnected and small changes can have a huge impact upon our ocean – and all life that calls it home,” explains Yoshimura. “By refilling and using this tin, you’ll cut down on your packaging waste, fuel yourself with clean ingredients to live your best life and do more for all vulnerable marine species.”
“At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and more than 250 million tons of plastic are estimated to pollute our waters by 2025,” says Julie Andersen, PADI’s Senior Director of Brand. “Much of that debris is ingested by all of the ocean’s creatures – including the symbolic megafauna like whales. By creating this campaign, PADI and Neuro have come together to drive change and heal ourselves, our communities, and the ocean – our largest and most important ecosystem on this blue planet, and the very thing responsible for life on earth.”
Uniting Two Purpose-Driven Brands
Founded in 2015 by Yoshimura and his co-founder Ryan Chen on their first dive trip in Catalina, the two college friends and PADI Scuba Divers were looking for a more sustainable way to optimise one’s health and energy – and soon after established Neuro®, a collection of functional gum and mints crafted with a patented formula and clean ingredients to help you do more.
What started as a small start-up conceived on a dive boat, led them to garner international recognition for their appearance on Shark Tank in 2020 – and they have now sold over 90 million pieces of Neuro products.
“Core to our purpose-driven ethos, we want to encourage the world to not only improve their own lives, but the lives of others,” explains Chen. “We understand that being a truly sustainable company is more than just protecting the environment. That is why we prioritise environmental, social, and economic sustainability to ensure Neuro operates in a way that benefits everyone – including the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales that live beneath the surface.”
“Just like Neuro, PADI empowers people to become the best version of themselves when they are in a state of ‘blue mind’, where you become deeply aware of your own personal health’s connection to that of our blue planet’s – realising that your own wellbeing gives you superpowers to make a real difference,” says Andersen. “We are obsessed with creating positive ocean change and transforming lives by making the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all and ensuring that communities and ecosystems live in harmony that mutually support one another. Together, we are magnifying our powers to do more by raising awareness to the issues facing our ocean, while at the same time, providing meaningful ways to take action.”
How the Ocean Healed Neuro Co-Founders
Scuba diving isn’t just a passionate hobby for Neuro co-founders Yoshimura and Chen. It is from this that they experienced the entrepreneurial side-effects of scuba diving, in which the dive trip was a core driver to their business success and personal wellbeing – giving them both their “million-dollar idea” and a renewed sense of purpose and belief that anything is possible.
“It was during this dive trip that we realised the need to have a practical, sustainable, and approachable system that can be shared with fellow divers that provide clean energy during surface intervals,” Yoshimura explains. “When you fall in love with the ocean, you want to spend as much time as possible exploring and protecting it. So, we wanted to create a product that supported this passion and gives you a prolonged state of ‘blue mind’.”
For Chen, earning his PADI Open Water Diver certification also provided him with a pivotal moment in his own healing journey after he had suffered a tragic snowboarding accident that left him partially paralysed. He became certified through the PADI Adaptive Techniques Diving Course and benefited greatly from the physical and mental therapy the sport of scuba diving provides. Soon after, his renewed sense of purpose led him to be named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019.
“There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater,” Chen recalls. “All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore. Learning to dive re-ignited my passion for life but also my belief that I too could make a difference in protecting and saving the ocean.”
“Learning to scuba dive unlocks hidden superpowers that are not only empowering – but essential to keep our shared blue planet healthy,” Andersen explains. “As a PADI Scuba Diver, you not only develop a new passion, but you also earn the unique ability to protect what you love, engaging in impactful citizen science with your own two hands. Through a shared mission of instilling hope, connecting with other species, and fueling hands-on conservation, we hope that we can make a better world for all of us.”
“That is why we rebuilt our company mission at PADI to reach every 1 in 10 people on our shared blue planet and inspire them to join us as Ocean Torchbearers to create positive ocean change,” says Andersen. “Our work with Neuro helps us inspire more people to experience, fall in love with, and protect the ocean and all life that calls it home. Together, Neuro and PADI are supporting more people in achieving a state of “blue mind”, in which they realise they too are superheroes that can accelerate and optimise healing: our own, our communities, and our planets.”
Win a Healing Trip of a Lifetime and Become PADI Whale Defenders in Mexico
Note: This competition is only open to residents of the USA
As part of their limited edition re-usable tin launch, PADI and Neuro are offering one lucky winner the ultimate healing trip of a lifetime: the chance to become a PADI Whale Defender in Baja California, Mexico. The prize includes flights, accommodation, the PADI Whale Defender Course, and a whale-watching tour with Dive Ninja Expeditions for two, as well as a collection of Neuro mint and gum products that includes Energy + Focus, Calm + Clarity and Sleep + Recharge.
“Together, we all must heal ourselves before we can heal the planet,” says Andersen. “Neuro and PADI are united in purpose, focused on our holistic wellbeing by healing from within, connecting with like-minded, purpose-driven communities, and joining a movement bigger than yourself to create positive ocean change. Seeing is believing, and an unforgettable, life-altering encounter with a whale will change your life forever, filling you with a drive to protect their – and our – blue world.”
For more information, to purchase the limited edition re-usable tins and to enter this competition, visit padi.neurogum.com/sweepstakes.
Diver Discovering Whale Skeletons Beneath Ice Judged World’s Best Underwater Photograph
An emotive photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees
Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024. Dawson’s
photograph ‘Whale Bones’ triumphed over 6500 underwater pictures entered by underwater
photographers from around the world.
“Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explains chair of judging
panel Alex Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear
witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great
creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today,
just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way
needs to change to find a balance with nature.”
Whales dominated the winning pictures this year with Spanish photographer Rafael
Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with his revealing photos of these ocean giants:
a close up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait
ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico. Fernandez Caballero took ‘Grey
Whale Connection’ while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water
to photograph the curious whale. ‘The End Of A Baitball’ required Fernandez Caballero to dive
down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged. “The photo shows
the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines
in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”
Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”
“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,”
commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi,
now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock,
was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star
Attraction”, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.
Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch
picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a
different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I
got really excited.”
In the same contest, Portuguese photographer, Nuno Sá, was named ‘Save Our Seas
Foundation’ Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024, with his photo ‘Saving
Goliath’, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm
whale. The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also
warns us that bigger changes are needed. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate
was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more
injured, after being struck by ships-and few people even realise that it happens.”
More winning images can be found at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com.
About Underwater Photographer of the Year
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools, and attracts entries from all around the world. The contest has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The winners were announced in an award ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. This year’s UPY judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Dr Alexander Mustard MBE.
Header image: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 winner Alex Dawson
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