The East Asian Seas harbour more than a third of the world’s coral reefs and contain the highest coral reef biodiversity in the world. Many of the estimated 1.3 billion people living within a hundred kilometres of the coast are dependant directly and indirectly on reef resources for their day-to-day survival.
Coral reefs in the region are an important resource, not only for local coastal populations, but also for the growing dive tourism industry. As tourism, and participation in marine recreation activities expands, coral reefs will come under increasing threats and pressures. ‘Green Fins’ was initiated in three of the most popular diving-destination countries in the region, namely Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines to increase the awareness of divers, and promote sustainable practices, coral reef monitoring, and conservation through a network of dive operators.
The ‘Green Fins’ programme, coordinated by the UNEP East Asian Seas Regional Coordinating Unit (EAS/RCU) and the Secretariat of the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), aims to encourage dive and resort operators, and clients who use their services, to adopt environmentally friendly practices when diving or snorkelling around coral reefs. Certificates are awarded to dive operators that carry out their operations in accordance with the ‘Green Fins’ membership Code of Conduct and Mission Statement as well as the environmentally sustainable diving and snorkelling guidelines, thus allowing tourists to make informed choices about which dive operation to use.
A series of evaluations, self-assessments and network assessments are conducted to evaluate the project and ensure that participating members adhere to the Code of Conduct.
Through the Green Fins programme a wide variety of education and awareness activities are conducted to raise the profile of the programme in the 10 participating countries, and encourage active engagement.