In October – December 2016, volunteer assessors under the leadership of Reef-World were based in Malapascua Island, Cebu for the fourth year of assessments. Having experienced rapid growth, the Malapascua industry is now the biggest it has ever been at 21 dive centres and boasts 100% Green Fins membership. This reflects the collaborative approach of the industry to impact management and improve sustainability. More aware than ever, the industry continue to work together for better management of divers, fisheries impacts, and local government involvement.
In 2016 the average score (reflective of environmental impact) dropped by 34 points – its lowest since implementation began in 2012. Despite the number of dive centres doubling in that time, the impact has been reduced 25%. Better diver management and well enforced no touch policies for most the industry means that managers can now focus on better waste management and hazardous waste disposal.
More dive centres than ever are reducing their impact through use of alternatives to chemical cleaners in areas that drain into the sea. Relationships with environmental cleaning product suppliers are being forged and the industry is moving forward as a whole.
All purpose simple green being used at a dive centre to clean the dunk tanks and regulators
Advances were also made with the Green Fins Ambassadors – hand-picked local guides who are championing sustainability and environmentally friendly diving practices on the island. They selected a leader this year to maintain communications with Reef-World throughout the year to keep up momentum and bringing practical conservation solutions into action. Based on industry consultations, the ambassadors were given additional training in coral ecology and biology, impact reduction to assist them in becoming the environmental voice for the Dive Guide Association.
Assessors also consulted with a local NGO to aid the development of environmental education delivery in Logon High School. A plan for future structure and a way to measure success of the programme was developed together with capacity building sessions for the teachers to increase their confidence to speak about environmental issues they face.
The Green Fins Ambassadors following their advanced training in Coral Reef Ecology and Impact Reduction
As part of the Global Challenges Research Fund Impact Acceleration Account, Dr. Ronan Roche from Bangor University joined the team to learn more about Green Fins and the attitudes and relationships the diving industry has with their primary business asset. This research, as with any done with Green Fins, will be fed back to the diving industry to maximise the potential for the industry to lead conservation efforts through their business.
By continuing to work together to create solutions and make a stand for the environment the local population of Malapascua and the diving industry continue to advance towards sustainability. With the primary focus being on the sustainability of the shark diving experience, everyone is motivated to ensure livelihoods and tourism work together for both economic and environmental effect.