How the Green Fins network is mobilizing the diving and snorkelling community as part of the Third International Year of Reef on 2018

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Divers appreciate the beauty and the value of coral reefs and all the different marine ecosystems more than anyone. Divers are at the frontlines, experiencing the stunning grace of the forest of the ocean, and in recent decades, the alarming damage and bleaching of the reefs they love. When it comes to understanding underwater behaviours, changes and impacts; divers and snorkelers can play a vital role, as the eyes and the ears of the reefs. Now, more than ever, the global community of ocean advocates has to come together to conserve these magnificent ecosystems for many more years to come.

It is for this reason that during 2018 The Third International Year of Reef (IYOR) will be celebrated as the continuation of a global effort that started in 1997. The previous IYORs resulted in great leaps for coral reef conservation globally, bringing awareness to these ecosystems as a source of livelihood, coastal protection, medicine and income to over 500 million people around the world. IYOR 2018 presents hope and opportunity to build a strong movement and collaboration between citizens, divers, organisations and governments, for fundamental policy and behaviour change needed to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems.

The main aims of IYOR 2018 are:

  • Support the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide and encourage timely actions.
  • Support and expand existing local reef-management efforts including MPAs, coastal and marine spatial planning, stewardship of watersheds and catchments where activities affect reefs.
  • Inspire and support public outreach, including citizen science and other forms of community engagement.
  • Support science-based coral-reef restoration efforts, and ensure that these are better coordinated and grounded in the best available science, with standardized methods and data processing where possible.

The year-long campaign will consist of events such as science workshops, dive shows, beach clean-ups and art exhibitions. The official launch of IYOR 2018 will take place at the ICRI annual meeting in Nairobi from the 7th to the 9th of December, with a regional European IYOR launch the same month at the European Coral Reef Symposium (ECRS) in Oxford, U.K.

Green Fins is a public-private partnership and network that is specific to the diving and snorkelling industry. It aims to strengthen the resilience of the coral reefs through implementing sustainable practices within the diving industry businesses and through inspiring responsible diver behaviour.  As part of IYOR 2018, the Green Fins network will mobilise to raise awareness and provide solutions to three key risks to the marine environment. These were identified through dedicated Green Fins assessments conducted in 500 operations to date. The areas to be covered will be:

Use moorings instead of anchors:

Coral is a very slow growing animal and if an anchor is incorrectly placed or thrown, it can destroy years of growth and affect the animal’s health in just seconds. Continued anchoring, even in sites of low coral cover, will prevent coral growth and development. Reef resilience is based on the ability and strength of the animals to cope with the threats they are exposed to such as climate change, overfishing, tourism, etc. by reducing the more localised threats the diving industry will give more breathing space for reefs to cope with the global threats.

Dive guides’ underwater correction:

Direct diver/ snorkeller damage can be very harmful to coral reefs. By 2020, The World Tourism Organization predicts that a record 1.4 billion tourists will cross international borders in a single year. A fair number of them will be divers and snorkelers; meaning that the threat is increasing. By clearly understanding what behaviour can cause damage to the environment and how it can be corrected, instructors and guides can help their guests protect coral reefs.

Do not feed the fish:

Fish feeding changes natural fish behaviour and affects the whole ecosystem, for instance feeding causes unnatural group predatory behaviour in normally solitary species making unguarded nests vulnerable. Also, whilst grazing upon algae, fish accidentally eat the larvae of coral predators like crown-of-thorns starfish. Feeding stops this grazing and allows coral predator populations to increase and damage the reef.

An active campaign will be running throughout the whole year inviting the diving community to take action and start diving for change! The Green Fins philosophy is of unconditional sharing, all of the materials such as the How-to-videos and posters will be promoted, articles featuring ideas, solutions and explaining the problem will be published, and new special IYOR materials will be created to help spread the message and in turn help corals be more resilient.

With increased pressure from climate change, overfishing, coastal development and tourism it is time to take action on each level of our societies. By following the Green Fins’ best practices for diving and snorkelling, you will be contributing to the survival of coral reefs. Divers are ambassadors of our oceans, so be part of the solution and help achieve that!

Follow Green Fins on social media and stay up to date during IYOR 2018 on latest events, tips and tricks and free materials that will help you to protect our coral reefs and marine environment. Check out some of the resources available and start getting informed:

How to use alternatives to anchoring

How-to-videos on Environmental Briefing

Underwater Corrections

Do’s and Don’ts poster

No Fish Feeding Infographics


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