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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches Green Fins Costa Rica

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The Reef-World Foundation, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and Misión Tiburón are delighted to announce that Costa Rica has joined 13 other countries globally to implement the Green Fins initiative — a UN Environment Programme initiative. Costa Rica is the first country on the American continent to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is implemented in Costa Rica by Misión Tiburón through the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) with support from Cynthia Barzuna Gutiérrez, Vice Minister of Water and Seas. Green Fins is being piloted in Guanacaste province, the North Pacific of Costa Rica, a major hub for scuba diving and snorkelling, as the first step in a national process. In North Pacific Costa Rica itself, there are around 50 sites with ideal conditions for snorkelling and recreational diving. Scuba diving tourism is a source of employment for many families in communities such as Playas del Coco, Brasilito or Tamarindo. Ensuring the sustainable use of these dive and snorkel sites is essential so that they continue to be a source of employment for current and future generations.

Over the last 10 years, the tourism industry in Costa Rica has seen a steady increase. The implementation of Green Fins in Costa Rica responds to the national and international goals set to reduce threats to biodiversity. One of its goals is to increase the number of marine tourism companies with sustainability certifications to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling industry in the country. The adoption of Green Fins in the country also contributes directly to the Sustainable Development Goals 12 and 14, established by the United Nations and adopted by Costa Rica.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (9 to 14 November 2021), Costa Rica now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors from Misión Tiburón and one Green Fins Coordinator from the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC). 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 following environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “Marine tourism in Costa Rica is growing fast with high demand from both national and international tourists coming to visit the incredible marine species that the country has to offer. Implementing best practices and guidelines through the Green Fins approach with support from the government of Costa Rica is critical to ensure that this market is sustainably managed, protecting valuable marine ecosystems for years to come. The national team of SINAC and Misión Tiburón have set out ambitious yet realistic targets to achieve a high level of uptake of Green Fins amongst dive and snorkel operators across the country. This will reduce local threats to the marine environment and increase corals and other marine life’s resilience to wider global impacts, including climate change.”

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, such as rising sea temperatures. 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 Costa Rica, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 14 marine tourism operators, training 70 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 14,000 tourists in the first year.

Ilena Zanella, Director of the Misión Tiburón, said: “The diving and snorkelling industry is an important ally to promote conservation practices on our marine and coastal ecosystems. Thanks to the industry’s natural involvement with these ecosystems, threats can be mitigated, and a more sustainable diving and snorkelling industry that follows Green Fins international standards can be established.”

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. Reducing diving and snorkelling-related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, helps to make them more resilient to other stressors such as those associated with climate change.

The Green Fins approach includes proven assessment criteria to identify and mitigate high-risk practices above and below the water. Green Fins members are evaluated annually based on a 15-point code of conduct, which measures the company’s impact on coral reefs: of a possible score of 330, the lower the score, the lower its impact. The robust assessment then enables Green Fins Assessors to provide 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 from the assessments of the pioneering Green Fins members in Costa Rica and support provided 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 of existing rules and regulations – is based on each company’s area of highest negative impact on the reef, as determined by the assessment.

To date, four Costa Rican dive operators have already joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Deep Blue Diving, Kraken Divers, El Refugio Guanacaste and Rich Coast Diving. There has also been significant interest from other operators who have signed the membership form and are looking forward to their training and assessment.

Mauricio Méndez, Technical Director of National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), 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.”

The launch of Green Fins Costa Rica was made possible thanks to financing support from IDB Lab under the Beyond Tourism Challenge. The Beyond Tourism Innovation Challenge was run by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through its innovation laboratory, IDB Lab, and in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

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

Costa Rican dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Team at Misión Tiburón (costarica@greenfins.net).

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Joanna Ruxton MBE, filmmaker and conservationist, about her life and work (Watch Video)

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“If you really care about our oceans and ultimately the planet on which we all live then do listen to what Jo Ruxton has to say about how we need to act now if we are to stop and reverse this destructive global trend we have created for ourselves and all other life.”

Jeff Goodman

In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Joanna Ruxton MBE, film maker and conservationist, about her life and work, ‘A Plastic Ocean’ (Netflix) and her new project Ocean Generation.

Jo graduated from London University with a degree in Marine Science.  She started the first marine programme for WWF in Hong Kong, where she raised her family, and was a key advocate for the establishment of the first marine parks there.

She returned to live in the UK and was a Producer at the BBC Natural History Unit and a lead member of the BBC’s diving team, producing and directing underwater sequences since the first days of filming on Blue Planet.

Disappointed in the lack of conservation messages in BBC films, she left in 2008 to work independently to produce, A Plastic Ocean, (Netflix).  She founded the charity, Ocean Generation (formerly Plastic Oceans).

She lives in Cornwall close to her daughters and their families and when not diving on location she enjoys cold-water sea swimming, whatever the season.  Jo was awarded an MBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honours for services to marine conservation.

About Ocean Generation | UK Charity No. 1139843

Ocean Generation is an inclusive global movement that exists to restore a sustainable relationship between humanity and the Ocean.

Founded in 2009, the charity was established initially to support the production and message of our award-winning documentary feature, ‘A Plastic Ocean’, named by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the most important films of our time” and ignited mass public awareness about the impact of plastic on our Ocean.

No ordinary NGO, Ocean Generation combines the disruptive energy of a youth collective with years of experience in storytelling through science and film.

Find out more at www.oceangeneration.org


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

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Marine Life & Conservation

Incredible underwater Cornish adventure awaits 400 lucky teens

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An education programme and competition, set to change the lives of 400 teenagers has launched to bring the crucial message of marine conservation to the heart of secondary school pupils nationwide.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL in conjunction with PADI the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organisation, believe it is every young person’s right to experience the ocean and that educating children about the wonders of the planet’s marine environment, the crucial part it plays in our existence and that of all ocean life, will help safeguard our seas for future generations.

Dive Project Cornwall has launched the ambitious project to educate hundreds of thousands of young people by delivering an education programme directly into schools across the UK, in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society. Their mission is to raise awareness of the importance of the planet’s marine environment and its vital role in our very own existence.​

At the heart of Dive Project Cornwall is a nationwide competition which will invite pupils to design and document a marine creature using recyclable plastics.

Open to all secondary schools, 400 lucky teenagers will win the experience of a lifetime: a 6-day, life-changing trip to Cornwall where they will learn to scuba dive at a PADI Dive Centre, enjoy outdoor adventures, take up beach-related activities and attend presentations from leading marine industry experts.

This will encourage teenagers to become PADI Open Water Divers and PADI Torchbearers – ocean influencers who positively engage, inspire and motivate the next generation to save our planet.

Registration closes in mid-April and a panel of judges will select the winners on 30th May. The judging panel confirmed to date includes: Emma Samuelsson, Regional Manager, PADI, EMEA; Kim Conchie, Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall; Malcolm Bell MBE, Head of Tourism at Visit Cornwall; Trevor Osborne, Chairman, The Trevor Osborne Property Group; Paul Strike, Founder & Director, Fourth Element; and Hannah Tapping, Editor, Cornwall Living & Drift.

Emma Samuelsson, Regional Manager, PADI, EMEA, tells us: “PADI is delighted to partner with Dive Project Cornwall to provide the 400 winning students with PADI Open Water Diver eLearning. PADI Dive Centres in Cornwall will work with the students to complete their in-water training and PADI certification. Scuba diving opens up the underwater world for young people and helps them to develop an understanding and appreciation for it, inspiring them to want to explore and protect it.”

This truly immersive experience will take teens from classroom to shoreline and beyond; from an on-site training pool to taking their first steps in discovering the wonders of life underwater in the ocean, igniting their imaginations to join the Ocean Conservation movement.

Many of these children will never have had the opportunity to experience the ocean close at hand. They will leave this residential course, delivered in the breath-taking environment of the Lizard in Cornwall, based at Porthkerris as PADI qualified open water divers, ready to spread the word as ocean influencers.

Find out more and register for the competition at www.diveprojectcornwall.co.uk/the-competition

Image credit: Jake Tims

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