The Green Fins programme is implemented by Reef-World and the UN Environment Programme in several different countries around the world. In each active country, their national team has a slightly different sustainability journey. With demand for Green Fins membership around the world booming – particularly in light of how important sustainability will be in tourism’s post-pandemic recovery – we’re dedicated to sharing the story of each active country to help others learn from them. Today, we learn more about one of the earliest Green Fins members, where the programme has been incorporated into nationwide government regulations. Read on to find out more about Green Fins Vietnam…
In 2013, Reef-World received the fantastic news that the Green Fins project was fully accepted by the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) Regional Grants initiative. Under this funding, a two-year regional project – called “Protecting Marine Ecosystems in MFF Countries Using the Green Fins Approach” – enabled Green Fins to be implemented in the Maldives and Vietnam.
A project inception meeting was held in March 2013 in Puerto Galera, Philippines. This meeting allowed lead project partners – including government representatives from Vietnam and the Maldives – to come together and prepare a strategy for the programme’s implementation. Green Fins Vietnam is overseen by the Institute of Oceanography (IO) under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST).
The participants spoke with the Green Fins Philippines team about how the project had helped the municipal government achieve its environmental goals. They also had the opportunity to meet some of the dive centres enrolled in the initiative to find out how the Green Fins approach has helped them manage guests in a more sustainable way; for example, by reducing the amount of trash underwater. As part of their education on the threats posed by the diving industry and how they can be mitigated, the participants also had the opportunity to join a dive to witness this first-hand. The team also decided on Nha Trang as the implementation site for Green Fins.
In November 2013, the Green Fins national team set up initial meetings with the dive centres in Nha Trang to explain more about the Green Fins programme and go through the assessment process for the first time. Each assessed member received a score which indicated their level of environmental impact as well as tips on the simple, practical changes they can make to become more sustainable.
The Green Fins national team, and its member dive centers, are excited about the potential environmental benefits this programme will have. Nguyen An Khang, Network Leader Assistant of Green Fins Vietnam and Researcher at the Institute of Oceanography, explained: “The Green Fins assessment system is a useful tool for quantifying the level environmental impact from marine tourism. I believe that if continuously applied, the recommended solutions provided by the Green Fins assessors will remove almost all environmental impacts of the marine tourism industry.”
In October 2014, the Green Fins Vietnam national team – led by the Institute of Oceanography (IO) and The Reef-World Foundation and supported by the Mangroves for the Future initiative (MFF) – conducted another round of environmental assessments and training for dive centre members in Nha Trang. These training sessions helped the dive centres involved understand how they can reduce their negative environmental impact on coral reefs in their area. The assessment scores also showed there had been an improvement in sustainability across the membership base with an average 15% reduction in environmental threats.
Nguyen An Khang said: “We, being scientists, have recognised that reassessment of impacts from Green Fins members and re-teaching them Green Fins Code of Conduct and environmental friendly snorkelling guidelines (annual) are responsible practice of the Green Fins Programme. Through the two actions, diving centres have been advised reducing their impacts and becoming more and more environmental friendly diving centres gradually. Vietnam Green Fins members really appreciate the online updating list of diving centres according to their assessment scores because it brings a fairness to all diving centres in terms of environmental investment and meets the needs of diving customers seeking green diving services.”
As a result of this successful activity, the national government in Vietnam decided to incorporate the Green Fins Code of Conduct into their nationwide regulations for provincial diving. This means that Green Fins will be used as a platform to encourage dive centres to get more involved in conservation and environmental activities.
In January 2016, the Reef-World team funded the Advanced Open Water certification of the Green Fins assessors in Vietnam. As part of the annual Green Fins assessment process, a trained Green Fins assessor will join member dive centres on a standard dive trip with guests. During this trip, they observe the centre’s processes to measure its compliance with the Green Fins Code of Conduct. A crucial part of this assessment is observing how guides interact with guests underwater to protect coral reefs from potential environmental damage. Increasing their certification level to Advanced Open Water divers – from Open Water which was their previous certification – meant they were qualified to join deeper dives (30m instead of 18m). This enabled them to join guests visiting a wider variety of dive sites during assessments and, as such, increased their conservation capacity. The training also allowed them to improve their skills in peak performance buoyancy (PPB), underwater navigation, deep diving, search & recovery and underwater photography. Their training and certification were provided by Sailing Club Divers.
In August, the Reef-World team travelled to Nha Trang Bay, Vietnam, to oversee the further progression of Green Fins implementation in the region. During the trip, they supported the Institute of Oceanography and the Hón Mun Marine Protected Area Management Board in the fourth round of Green Fins Vietnam assessments. In total, 10 assessments took place including the recruitment of one newly opened dive centre to the Green Fins programme. As a result of the hard work of all the members, assessment scores in the region (which indicate the negative environmental impact on coral reefs) had reduced by 20% since the first year of implementation: a great achievement!
Nguyen An Khang reflected on how the programme has been useful for the government too: “In terms of governmental management, in Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa, Vietnam), I have seen the lessons learned from the Vietnam Green Fins Programme (2013-2016) have been referred by representatives of provincial authorities and Nha Trang Bay Management Board during their elaboration of legal documents on coral reef resource management.”
In April 2017, Sailing Club Divers – a Green Fins member based in Nha Trang – provided scuba diving training for staff from the Marine Park Management Board. They trained 14 staff members in total; giving them the opportunity to see the habitats under the water and better understand the various issues related to scuba diving. For example, they saw first-hand how well the mooring buoy programmes were at preventing boats from damaging coral reefs through the harmful process of anchoring.
They also learned more about the need for clearer and more effective zoning systems in Nha Trang Bay. This increased understanding of the potential threats posed by the marine tourism industry will help them find better solutions to minimise negative environmental impacts on the coral reefs and marine life in Nha Trang Bay. Their scuba diving certifications also mean they’re better placed to take action and regulate the sustainable use of the MPA for years to come.
Nguyen An Khang said: “I found that the cores of the Green Fins programme are the Green Fins Code of Conduct, the environmental friendly swimming guide, a set of technical solutions for impact minimisation and its online database. The Green Fins programme developed a useful tool, Green Fins Assessment Protocol for quantifying environmental impact level caused by snorkelling diving centres. I believe that almost all impacts from tourism and diving industry will be removed if recommended solutions by Green Fins technicians are appropriately and continuously applied.”