I well remember the Marine Conservation Society starting up in the late 1970s. It coincided with the early days of my TV filming career when marine conservation was quite a new concept in the eyes of the general public and little understood for the importance it held. With the development of the web and social media, marine conservation issues are now easily communicated to the masses and finally people are beginning to realise that the sea is not a limitless resource of food as well as not a bottomless pit for waste.
The Marine Conservation Society is a UK charity for the protection of the seas around the United Kingdom, and for the protection of our shores and wildlife.
Richard Harrington is the communications Officer for the MCS.
Jeff: Can you tell us more about the Marine Conservation Society and what being communications manager entails?
Richard: MCS is the UK charity for the marine environment, and we have a lot to say when we stand up for the life beneath the waves. I am in the privileged position of working at MCS to get our work noticed – through media, digital, printed resources etc – and harnessing the support of people who are interested in seeing marine life better protected in joining with us in our important work.
Jeff: What kind of people support the MCS?
Richard: That’s a challenge to answer! We started off with the support of scuba divers, and scientists, who still make up a good percentage of our supporter base. But the work we’ve branched out into on beaches, in schools etc. means we have a great variety now, and it really is hard to label our supporters as one type or another.
Jeff: What age groups are they mainly?
Richard: There’s a broad range of ages, with a peak in numbers for our paying supporters in the age ranges between 45 – 64. This might sound old! But actually, in comparison with some other charities, it is relatively youthful.
Male and female split is almost precisely 50:50. I like to think we have universal appeal!
Jeff: How do they support the MCS?
Richard: There are those who simply donate a couple of pounds a month and trust us to do our work, and we simply keep them informed of our work. A lot of people like to get much more involved, and we have several thousand volunteers who clean beaches, dive with Seasearch, and we also have around 250 “Sea Champions” – super volunteers who are the local voice of MCS in UK regions and countries. We encourage our supporters to get behind our campaigns, too, and always have ways for people to get involved.
Jeff: Are all MCS members from the UK or do you have people interested from other countries?
Richard: Mostly UK, as we are a registered charity here, but we have a good number of supporters who live overseas, too. Several live in Europe, a handful in the US, and a smattering of others is spread across the continents!
Jeff: Can you tell us about the MCS’s most recent projects?
Richard: The biggest has been with marine reserves (see my later answers). The Seasearch underwater surveys have gone from strength to strength, mapping out many new seabed sites with volunteer divers. We’ve been cleaning and surveying beaches with the biggest ever national event this spring, when nearly 10,000 people turned up around the UK. Working to make the UK largely carrier bag-free, successfully in every country other than England – so far!
Jeff: Do you have a favourite project?
Richard: I really enjoy seeing the results of our sustainable seafood work – our lists of fish to eat and avoid are used by chefs and supermarkets, and the public are definitely picking up on the need to buy sustainable. I’ve enjoyed working with Fish Fighters (and the “End of the Line” documentary makers before this). We’re making a Good Fish Guide App for Android at the moment, and looking at rating retailers on their sustainability in the Autumn. Watch this space!
Jeff: Are there ongoing issues that never seem to get resolved?
Richard: One big theme of our last few months has been trying to get marine reserves around UK waters; we enlisted the support of TV’s Fish Fight, marched on parliament, and really pulled out all the stops to make them a priority for government. At a crucial time, we’re seeing all the hard work turn into rather vague commitments from government for English seas, and Wales’ waters too. We’re focusing on Scottish seas over the next few months, which stand a good chance of being better protected if we succeed.
Jeff: A few years ago we were all very excited about the Marine Bill initiative but as time went on it slowly disappeared from public news. Can you tell us what is happening with it now and what the MCS involvement is?
Richard: That bill became an Act in 2010 (2011 for Scotland) and some good things have come of it. There is more of a joined-up approach to managing our seas by government, for example. But – and it is a big but – the network of protected sites that was enabled by the legislation is slow in coming to fruition. We’re keeping the pressure on!
Jeff: If people have a special marine environment or species they want to protect, how can they get started?
Richard: Talk to us! Don’t feel helpless, there’s lots you can do. Depending on where your favourite place might be, and what species you have concerns for, there is always something you can do to help. For a small site off the UK coast, you could garner support amongst locals and sea users for protecting it, or simply help spread the word about how valuable it is.
Jeff: Most of our readers are divers, how can they best support the marine environment?
Richard: Join MCS – you won’t be disappointed! www.mcsuk.org
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to email@example.com for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Seahorse National Park announced on Eleuthera in The Bahamas
This week has seen the announcement of the designation of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond on Eleuthera. This monumental announcement comes after years of efforts from the BNT and its partners in advocating for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding areas as an official national park under the BNT’s management.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. It has many unique natural features, but the most notable of them all is its incredible seahorse population, which is believed to be the densest population of seahorses in the world. The new 548-acre national park protects the entire one-mile-long pond and the surrounding terrestrial area. The land surrounding Sweetings Pond is a blend of intact coppice, mangroves, and farmlands. In addition, the new national park includes the extensive Hatchet Bay Caves system. This historic cave system is a popular attraction and contains a number of impressive geological features. It is one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
Since 2014, the BNT has been leading efforts to have the area declared as a national park. This included years of public outreach and stakeholder consultations in communities across Eleuthera; education presentations in local schools; science and research efforts; and engaging consecutive government administrations. In 2018, the BNT submitted the “20 by 20 Marine Protection Plan” to the government, which included the recommendation to declare Sweetings Pond and other areas in The Bahamas as protected areas.
During the lease signing ceremony for Seahorse National Park, Minister Clay Sweeting, said, “This lease agreement for Sweetings Pond has been a long time coming. It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolises our collective responsibility to safeguard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all stakeholders in this process of drafting and finalising this lease agreement. Their dedication, expertise, and commitment has been crucial in ensuring that this agreement falls in line with our vision of creating a thriving ecosystem while promoting responsible usage. Let us continue to preserve the jewel that is Sweetings Pond for many generations to come.”
The BNT invites the public to stay tuned for more news about its plan for the country’s newest national park: Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond!
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs
Banner Image: A lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), female, clining to algae in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas by Shane Gross
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