PADI has named its first 11 verified Eco Centres in response, it says, to a finding by long-term partner the Reef-World Foundation that 95% of divers want to book trips with sustainable operators but often struggle to book with confidence.
Also read: Jordan becomes 15th Green Fins dive nation
That 2022 study, Sustainability In A Recovering Travel World, was reported on Divernet last June and can be downloaded here. PADI describes its new Eco Centre designation as “a prestigious credential awarded to those who exhibit continued commitment to conservation”, timing its announcement to coincide with Earth Day (22 April).
“PADI is committed to protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030, which is fuelled by creating like-minded partnerships, mobilising our PADI Mission Hub members, re-envisioning the way people travel and encouraging daily changes we all can make for a better and healthier planet – with PADI Eco-Centres being the catalyst for real change in the tourism sector,” said global director of brand Julie Andersen.
Eco Centres are those recognised by PADI as businesses that support the objectives of its Blueprint for Ocean Action. The agency says that its ultimate goal is to connect ocean-lovers with sustainability leaders in the dive industry “through a rigorous verification that gives travellers the confidence that their tourism dollars are going to make a positive impact”.
Verification takes a year
Verification is carried out in conjunction with the Reef-World Foundation’s Green Fins initiative, applying three sets of criteria over the space of a year to ensure that the centre can demonstrate an “exemplary level of environmental best practices above and beneath the surface”.
PADI Eco Centres undertake to adopt and protect at least one local dive-site through PADI Aware’s Adopt the Blue programme. This means extending local efforts by both divers and non-divers to clear up marine debris, protect vulnerable species, restore coral reefs and tackle climate-change effects, in the hope of accelerating the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The initiative takes in citizen science and data collection, local and global policy advocacy and providing educational opportunities for all ages, says PADI.
The prospective Eco Centre has to be a Green Fins member and follow its environmental code of conduct. Membership can be obtained through in-person assessment or online, with the dive operation then committing to carry out at least three conservation actions.
Thirdly, PADI Eco Centres must prove these actions within the Green Fins ranking system. They can range from teaching PADI Aware courses to running citizen-science initiatives or local beach clean-ups, but progress in reducing the centre’s environmental footprint has to be measurable and demonstrated.
The first PADI Eco Centres:
1. Red Sea Diving Safaris, Egypt: With three villages along the southern coastline in Marsa Alam, Red Sea Diving Safaris is one of Egypt’s leading environmental activists and pioneer of sustainable tourism development, according to PADI.
2. Dive Ninja Expeditions / Mexico: Said to be focused on bridging gaps between tourism, science and conservation in Baja, Mexico, this operation is said to support the local community in ways ranging from a scholarship programme to marine research, creating opportunities for divers to connect and gain citizen-science skill-sets.
3. Fifth Point Diving Centre / UK offers scuba divers the chance to book eco-adventure holidays, says PADI, and empowers the younger generation and professionals to take a “leading role in creating positive ocean change”.
4. Silent World / USA: Integrating conservation efforts and minimising crowds, this Key Largo operation is said to make saving the ocean and diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary “stress-free”.
5. Excel Scuba / Spain: Located in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, this centre offers internship programmes to the local community so that they can enhance their career opportunities and educate others about the importance of conservation.
6. Ceningan Divers / Indonesia: Operating in the Nusa Penida MPA, this centre has won numerous industry sustainability awards, says PADI, and ranks as one of the world’s top three Green Fins operators
7. Sea Voice Divers / Malaysia: This “small but mighty” Malaysian Eco Centre also keeps its dive-groups small, runs numerous conservation programmes and encourages customers and team-members to obtain AWARE Specialist certification, says PADI.
9. Evolution / Philippines: This small owner-operated Eco Centre on Malapascua island off Cebu is said to ensure that every outing is a Dive Against Debris dive.
11. Oceans Unlimited / Costa Rica: This Pacific dive-centre works alongside local non-profit Marine Conservation Costa Rica to run a coral-restoration programme in Quepos, with education and outreach opportunities for both locals and visitors.