Coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on the planet. Yet, they’re under threat from several global stressors including the effects of climate change. While irresponsible tourism can pose a further threat to corals, well-managed tourism can provide many benefits and can protect the ocean. These benefits include economic opportunities for local communities that rely on coral reefs.
Reducing direct local threats – by following environmental best practice – is critical. This is because it allows reefs to be more resilient to those stressors. So, every guest you can inspire to become more sustainable makes a positive difference to the future of our reefs.
The purpose of the Green Fins initiative is to encourage, educate, inspire and empower people to protect coral reefs. As a Green Fins dive guide – and environmental role model – you are at the forefront of ocean conservation. You play a vital role in helping your guests learn why we should protect the ocean and how they can help. But how on earth do you teach your guests to be better, more environmentally friendly divers? It’s much simpler than you might think!
Credit: Brook Peterson / Coral Reef Image Bank
Here, The Reef-World Foundation – which coordinates the Green Fins initiative internationally in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – shares a few great ways you can inspire your guests to be more environmentally conscious and protect our oceans for future generations:
Help them understand why it’s so important to protect the ocean
The fact your guests are diving with you shows they already have an interest in the ocean. But many of them, particularly those who live in cities far from the ocean, may not understand how important underwater ecosystems are. As their guide, you can act as an environmental role model. You can teach them about the value of coral and why it’s so important to protect it.
Having a few fun facts up your sleeve can help bring this to life. Did you know:
- Coral reefs are some of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet
- Taking up less than 1% of the world’s surface, coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine species.
- Without coral, the ocean would lose a huge diversity of life.
Guests who understand the importance of the oceans are much more likely to be motivated to adopt more sustainable behaviours. People taking action to become more sustainable will protect coral reefs and related ecosystems for years to come.
Explain the problem – and make it relatable
Currently, 75% of the world’s reefs are threatened and this figure is only expected to increase. But stats and facts can sometimes be hard to relate to. It’s much easier to show your guests the consequences of harmful behaviour. For example, if you find a plastic bag, show them how similar this looks to a jellyfish and explain it can kill a hungry turtle that mistakes it for lunch. The next time they’re tempted to litter, they’ll surely think again!
Do what you do best – teach your guests how to protect the ocean!
As a dive guide, you’re a role model and a teacher for divers from all over the world. Most divers are passionate about the ocean and love to learn new things. They will likely be grateful for any environmental pointers you might have for them. Your boat and pre-dive briefings offer a great opportunity to teach guests about environmental best practice. You’ll also have lots of time to chat to guests more informally around the dive shop and on the boat. These are great times for you to explain about why you care so much about the ocean and its protection. It’s always inspiring to hear someone’s perspective and a little of your passion might rub off on them too.
Brief, correct and follow up
Research shows including environmental pointers in your pre-dive briefing helps customers learn best environmental practices. These pointers should be coupled with underwater corrections and clear follow-up post-dive. These steps help your guests become better, more environmentally friendly divers. Include tips on environmental best practice in your briefing, correct any bad behaviour you see underwater and follow up afterwards. It’s important to explain why you asked them to change what they were doing. As a result, your guests will quickly learn to be better divers and will thank you for helping them improve!
Lead by example
As a dive guide, you are a role model for your guests, whether you want to be or not! Your guests will be looking to you for guidance on how to act. They’re likely to copy your behaviour too. So, if they see you touching coral, chasing marine life or swimming with gauges dragging over the reef, they might think it’s OK to do the same. So, be sure to lead by example and always follow environmental best practice.
When you ask your guests to act in a certain way – such as not throwing lunch scraps overboard to attract fish – make sure you explain why this is important for the environment. They might have no idea that fish feeding changes the balance of the ecosystem and can lead sick or aggressive fish and an unhealthy reef, smothered with algae. When they learn of the long-term consequences of their actions on coral ecosystems, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to teach them!
Get your guests involved
Everyone has a part to play in the protection of our oceans so why not get guests involved in your environmental activities? It’s a great way to make them feel involved and understand they can be part of the solution. For example, host a regular beach clean-up with a small prize for the group who collects the most trash and encourage your guests to get involved.
Watch a fin-tastic movie
If your dive operator has a bar, restaurant or accommodation for your guests, it’s likely you might host evening events to keep your divers entertained while they chill out post-dive. Movie nights are always popular. You could even throw in a bit of education too by screening a film or TV show about ocean conservation. Good options include Mission Blue, Chasing Coral or good old Blue Planet. If you want to make even more impact, you could charge a small entry fee for each guest. The donations would help Reef-World continue our work to protect coral reefs. 😉
Shout about your Green Fins membership!
Research shows that businesses who have adopted Green Fins show measurable improvements in their environmental practices and a reduction in damaging contacts made by their divers. As a proud part of the Green Fins network, display the Green Fins posters and tell guests about what you do to follow the Code of Conduct.
Be loud and proud
When it comes to your environmental credentials, don’t be afraid to shout about what you’re doing to protect the ocean. Guests love to hear about what dive shops are doing to conserve their local coral reefs before and after their trip as well as during it! For example, if you’ve hosted a cleanup recently, share some pictures on your website or social media channels and let people know how much trash you collected; and if you host a fundraiser, update everyone who made a donation on how much you raised and what impact these funds will have on your chosen charity (ahem, Reef-World!)’s work to protect coral reefs for future generations.