Japan has become the 14th country to introduce Green Fins, a UN Environment Programme initiative designed to reduce threats to the marine environment associated with diving and snorkelling.
The resort area of Onna Village in Okinawa is the first tourist destination in Japan to adopt Green Fins, as part of the country’s Sustainable Development Goals project to persuade marine-tourism operators of the value of sustainable tourism.
UK charity the Reef-World Foundation, which co-ordinates Green Fins internationally, says that four Onna Village dive operators – Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Centre, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club – have so far joined its network of 600-plus members, with others showing “significant interest” in signing up.
A national Green Fins team comprising four trained assessors and two co-ordinators from conservation body Oceana and the local government now exists to recruit, assess, train and certify dive and snorkel operators as Green Fins members.
Training covers ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions and Green Fins’ environmental standards. After improving their sustainability, operators can use their Green Fins membership to prove their eco-credentials to prospective customers.
“We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress,” says Reef-World director James Harvey. “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.”
Reef-World’s aim is to reach 10 operators, train 50 dive-guides and raise awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in its first year in Japan.
Meanwhile Reef-World has produced a new poster, Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Snorkellers, for free download. It is designed to help marine-tourism operators and resorts raise awareness of vulnerable marine ecosystems among guests indulging in the largely unregulated practice of snorkelling.
“Snorkelling is a fabulous way to get people into the water and enjoy the wonders of the marine environment,” says Reef-World director Chloe Harvey. “Such experiences are a powerful tool to inspire people to make changes to protect these vital marine resources. However, there are very few touchpoints for raising awareness of best practice along a regular snorkeller’s pathway from land to ocean.” The poster can be downloaded here.
Reef-World also says it has linked up with Reef Check Malaysia to resume the Green Fins programme in the country after a hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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