Demand for the Green Fins programme is at an all-time high. Reef-World continues to hear from government bodies and organisations around the world asking how Green Fins can be launched in their country. So, what does it take to launch Green Fins in a new country? Today, we’re hearing about the journey of a country which is yet to fully launch the programme. Here is the story of Green Fins Japan so far.
Reef-World visited Onna Village in 2013 supported by local NPO Okinawa O.C.E.A.N. On this trip they conducted initial investigations into the applicability of Green Fins in Onna. They recommended Onna Village as a suitable pilot site for Green Fins in Japan.
The Ministry of Environment announced it would include Green Fins in its action plan. Discussions about working together began with UNEP Association of Japan. Implementing Green Fins in a new destination takes lots of planning. In 2015, the wheels were in motion and this planning was beginning to get underway.
In July 2018, the mayor declared Onna Village as the “Village of Coral”. He also announced a new approach, strongly focused on conservation. This Sustainable Development Goals campaign is a pilot project aiming to show how sustainable tourism can play a part in protecting reefs. It is one of 10 pilot conservation projects around the country, but the only one focusing on the ocean! This model has great potential. If the mission is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model might be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow us to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. The campaign chose Green Fins as key to its mission.
The Reef-World team visited Onna Village to conduct a scoping trip. Their aim was to find out more about the diving industry in Okinawa. They were also planning next steps for a Green Fins Japan pilot in 2020. Staff from Reef-World and the UN Environment Programme met with the people who will make up the Green Fins national team – from Onna Village, Onna Village Diving Association, oceana and Japan Association for UNEP – as well as Onna Village’s Mayor. They also met several dive centres who are interested in taking part.
Village mayor Yoshimi Nagahama told the UN Environment Programme: “Though I cannot change things just by myself, with support from and cooperation with many people we can protect the environment and maintain it for future generations. I hope that by using the Green Fins code of conduct, we will be able to inform divers about environmental issues more effectively and enable divers to have a wonderful diving experience.”
Makiko Yashiro, UNEP’s Regional Coordinator for Ecosystems, added: “Onna Village has a strong interest in sustainable practices, and it is the perfect pilot for the Japanese chapter of Green Fins. We hope that when this initial project is successful, we can bring the Green Fins code of conduct to other locales in Japan.”
The global COVID-10 pandemic caused delays to the launch of Green Fins Japan, which had been planned for June 2020. However, because of the project’s potential to offer solutions to many of the common environmental problems faced in the area, the team was determined to continue with activities wherever possible.
Travel restrictions meant face-to-face trainings and a full launch of Green Fins Japan were not possible. Instead, the team used this time to:
- Update the Green Fins suite of materials with new (and more accurate) Japanese translations
- Plan marketing campaigns – including island-wide promotion to tourists
- Host environmental awareness raising sessions to educate members of the local diving industry about the importance of sustainable practices
- Promote Green Fins to Okinawa’s diving industry and encourage them to register their interest in becoming members
- Select 10 dive centres who will become the first to be assessed when the pilot can take place
- And much more!
The launch of Green Fins Japan will help to promote high quality diving standards in the country. This, in turn, will demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product and encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region: critical to the destination as it tries to build back better after the impacts of the pandemic. We hope to be able to bring the programme to the Japanese dive market very soon!