Puerto Galera is the longest running Green Fins site in the world, entering its seventh year of activities in 2017. Found in the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, it is located at the South Western end of the Verde Island Passage, known as “the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity”. This renown has quickly turned Puerto Galera into one of the most popular marine tourism destinations in the country, with over 30 spectacular dive sites and numerous white sandy beaches, placing extreme pressures on its coastal and marine resources.
In May 2017, a team of two (2) Green Fins assessors from The Reef-World Foundation conducted a rapid site assessment of local Green Fins members and their impacts on the waters of Puerto Galera. Spending just eight days in Puerto Galera, the assessors renewed nine memberships and conducted six training sessions to enhance the industry’s knowledge of marine conservation issues and techniques for managing tourism impacts to protect coral reefs.
A rigorous environmental impact criteria allows assessors to rate the environmental standards of each member with a confidential score. The lower the score, the lower the environmental impact, with 0 being the lowest and 330 being the highest. Encouragingly, the average score for assessed dive centres in Puerto Galera has decreased by 30% from the baseline assessments completed in 2011 and by 9% since the last round of assessments in 2016.
In addition to a decrease in average score, members are also conducting more beach and underwater clean-ups to promote environmental responsibility to their guests. Members have shown a continued commitment throughout the year to report environmental violations to the local government and the risk posed by anchoring from Green Fins members has reduced by 56%.
These are great indicators of the continued success of the Green Fins initiative after several years of implementation. International coordinators, The Reef-World Foundation, are working towards the participation of national and local government representatives in next year’s round of Puerto Galera’s assessments, thanks to the inclusion of Green Fins in the Philippines’ Department of Environment’s (DENR) new Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Management Plan (CMEMP).