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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.

Marine Life & Conservation

Statement from Captain Paul Watson on his resignation from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA)

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It is with great relief that as of July 27th, 2022, I have ceased my employment and cut all ties with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA).

Since 1977, when I founded Sea Shepherd nearly a half century ago, I have dedicated my entire life to the aggressive and determined preservation and protection of biodiversity of marine life and our ocean.

Over the last few years, I have been slowly marginalized from the organization that I created in the USA. I was removed from the Board of Directors, my advice ignored, my close associates terminated and directors that supported me were removed. I was reduced to being a paid figurehead, denied the freedom to organize campaigns and the freedom to express the strong opinions that I have held for decades, opinions and campaigns that have shaped what Sea Shepherd has become and continues to be outside the borders of the United States.

As I said in the documentary movie Watson, my role is to rock the boat, to make waves, to provoke people to think about the damage we are collectively inflicting upon diversity and interdependence of life in the ocean.

The current Board seeks to turn our vessels away from confronting illegal poachers that prey on endangered species and instead seeks to turn our fleet into non-controversial research vessels. Research has always been a part of Sea Shepherd efforts, but it has not and should not be our priority. What we have provided is a unique function: a fearless leadership to intervene against poachers on the high seas, to document and to stop illegal acts that would otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sea Shepherd has always, and must always go where others fear to go, to say the things that must be said and to tackle the obstacles fearlessly and with great resolve.

The new direction that the present Board of Sea Shepherd USA has decided upon is not a path that I can in good conscience support nor participate in. I have not changed my objectives or resolve, and I refuse to change and adopt an approach that diminishes the incredible movement that we have created over the last four and a half decades, a movement that continues to grow outside the borders of the United States.

I remain a director of Sea Shepherd Global, and I remain a supporter of Global ships, officers, and crew. Together with all other national Sea Shepherd entities, with the exception of the USA, I will continue to support our campaigns around the world utilizing our unique philosophy of aggressive non-violence and cooperation with governments and NGOs.

We are Sea Shepherd. We are direct action motivated by imagination, persistence, and courage.

My future lies with the people from around the world who have made and continue to make Sea Shepherd the most influential, passionate, and effective marine conservation movement on this planet.

Captain Paul Watson

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Canada (1977)

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA (1981)

 

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean is back

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The Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean is back, running from 16th – 25th September 2022.

The charity is calling for volunteers across the UK to join them at the coast for a week of beach cleaning and litter surveying.

The Great British Beach Clean, sponsored by Ireland’s number one soup brand, Cully & Sully, is more than just a clean up. Every year volunteers make note of the litter they collect, sharing the data with the Marine Conservation Society’s experts. The charity has used data collected to campaign for carrier bag charges, single-use plastic bans and deposit return schemes.

Last year, volunteers collected over 5 tonnes of litter, with an average of 3.85 items found for every metre of beach surveyed across the UK.

Clare Trotman, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at the Marine Conservation Society without the support of our volunteers heading out to the coast to collect vital information on what’s polluting our seas.

“With beach cleans happening across the UK, from remote beaches to busy seaside resorts, there’s so many ways to get involved and support us this year. If you can’t make it to the beach, you can still take part by doing a local litter pick and survey where you live.”

At last year’s Great British Beach Clean, 75% of all litter collected was made from plastic and polystyrene.

From production to disposal, plastic has a direct impact on the ocean’s capacity to combat the climate crisis. Manufacturing plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Most plastic is produced using fossil fuels, meaning more plastic production results in increased carbon emissions. Plastic is also entering the food chain, from tiny phytoplankton to ocean giants, like whales.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Pollution, whether it’s big, small or even invisible, is having a hugely negative impact on our ocean and all those who rely on it – including us. Tiny microplastics are being eaten by plankton at the very foundation of ocean ecosystems, animals big and small are being tangled in plastic packaging, turtles are mistaking it for food, and chemical pollution is changing the ocean’s chemistry.

“All of this is an alarming picture of the state of our seas, but each and every volunteer who joins the Great British Beach Clean helps us research the scale of pollution in the UK. This research is vital to stop pollution at source, and we know it works. Cleaner beaches will support a healthy ocean, and a healthy planet.”

Cullen Allen (Aka Cully) from Cully & Sully said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Great British Beach Clean 2022. We’ve supported beach cleans in Ireland for the past 4 years and are excited about extending our commitments to the Great British Beach Clean. We’re excited to take part and get started, and of course spread the word on the importance of keeping our beaches and public spaces clean”.

Join the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean as an organiser, or volunteer, this year. Sign up via the charity’s website: www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean.

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