During the 1st to the 3rd March 2017, a Green Fins Workshop was conducted by The Reef-World Foundation attended by state conservation officers and rangers from Koror, Melekeok, Ngardmau, and Ngarchelong, the Director of the Bureau of Tourism, Managing Director of Palau Visitors Authority, Executive Director of Belau Tourism Association, Executive Director of Palau Conservation Society, CEO of the Palau International Coral Reef Center and representatives of major dive and snorkeling centers in Palau including Fish n Fins, NECO Marine, Sam’s Tours, IMPAC Uel Cruise, and Palau Dive Adventures.
Opening the event was Minister F. Umiich Sengebau from the Ministry of Natural Resources Environment and Tourism who described the event as an ‘Important and very needed workshop’ and highlighted the importance of sustainable tourism by describing the snorkelling and diving industry as ‘Palau’s main bread and butter.’
Adoption of Green Fins in Palau will make this the first country outside Asia to pioneer the programme and is a great step forward in the growth of Green Fins Internationally. In recent years, Palau has seen a large growth in its tourist numbers, primarily driven by the Chinese market who mostly come to scuba dive and snorkel. In 2015, Palau received 161,931 visitors but only has a population of around 20,000, highlighting the importance of best practice and ensuring sustainable approaches are included in management frameworks when it comes to the tourist industry. The aim of the workshop was to develop an appropriate roadmap for applying the Green Fins approach alongside existing tourism management approaches to reduce negative impacts on coral reefs in Palau.
During the workshop a roadmap setting out a course of action for 2017 was developed and agreed to with great input from the participants. The workshop ended on Friday and was closed by Leilani Reklai, President of the Belau Tourism Association. In her closing remarks, Ms. Reklai stated “The Green Fins management approach delivers on key objectives of Palau’s Responsible Tourism Framework and is in line with industry’s goals to raise the standard of our services to match our premier marine product”.
It is anticipated that Green Fins Palau will officially launch later this year with the identification and training of a national team of assessors and coordinators. Alongside this will see the recruitment and training of new Green Fins members taking place in August and September 2017.
The three day workshop was sponsored by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and organized by the Japan Wildlife Research Center (JWRC), PICRC, PCS, The Reef-World Foundation, and supported by UN Environment Program. Reef-World would like to thank all those that took part and supported this event.