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New Techniques for Coral Restoration in the Caribbean

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May 18, 2017

Hear experts from the Global Coral Restoration Project  provide an overview of coral restoration efforts around the world and discuss current obstacles and potential solutions. This seminar kicks off an in-person workshop designed to foster exchange between practitioners working in the fields of coral science, restoration, aquaculture and marine resource management. Explore the seminar presentations and learn about coral restoration from the experts!

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Lead Scientist, Lizzie McLeod on Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change

EY7A1297Climate change affects individuals, communities, and entire ecosystems, but its impacts are not evenly distributed. Around the world, women are disproportionally impacted by poverty, political disenfranchisement and are oftenmore reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, making gender a critical component of climate vulnerability.

At the same time, bringing women into climate science and decision-making strengthens climate action, helping communities to be more sustainable and reducing environmental and economic risks.

This March, Lizzie McLeod, The Nature Conservancy’s climate adaptation scientist for the Pacific, is hosting a learning exchange for women across the Pacific Islands to share their climate adaptation experiences and lessons learned. During the workshop, Lizzie will help to capture their innovative local solutions,while broadening women’s engagement in sustainability. We caught up with Lizzie to discuss her work on the frontlines of gender and climate risk.

Staff News: Hi Lizzie. Tell us about yourself: How many years have you been at TNC and how did you get started in this work?

Lizzie: I have been at TNC for 15 years! I started as a coral reef scientist and became interested in exploring how coral reefs react to warming ocean temperatures. The biggest shift in my career took place when I started working more closely with coastal communities. As a marine scientist, I understood the importance of conducting research to model climate impacts, but working with communities in the Pacific deepened my appreciation for solutions that were developed directly from the communities themselves. Mirroring the broader trend in the Conservancy’s work, I also  shifted from focusing on the natural sciences to tackling the intersection of people and nature. Climate change is the single biggest environmental threat facing Pacific Island communities, so strategies that help communities and ecosystems adapt to a changing world are crucial.

While working with different communities, why is it important to focus on bringing women into climate research and solutions?

LM: Women often face unequal access to natural resources and decision-making and limited mobility which can make them disproportionately affected by climate change. Women also may face social, economic and political barriers that can limit their ability to cope with climate impacts. However, vulnerability varies among groups and individuals as well as over time. We cannot simply view women as a homogenized “vulnerable” group. Doing so prevents us from appreciating and addressing the power relations involved, and the active role that many women play in environmental management, climate mitigation, and adaptation. We need to explore how and in what contexts women are able to deal with the unequal effects of climate change and also develop solutions that build their capacity to create positive and lasting change in their communities.

In addition…

Women often bring different perspectives, knowledge and solutions to the table. Women’s responsibilities in their homes and communities, and their management of natural resources, means that they are critical to strategies designed to address changing environmental conditions. As an example, in many Pacific Islands, the women are the ones that primarily harvest taro – a culturally important and dietary staple threatened by climate change. Therefore, engaging women is critical to developing sustainable climate solutions that build on their traditional knowledge and expertise managing the resource. It wasn’t until scientists built gender into their research that they gained insights into the practices that the women were using to help farms adapt to saltwater intrusion, changing rainfall patterns, and sea-level rise. While it’s true that in many areas, women are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, what is often overlooked is that they also are often leading the way to experiment with climate solutions.

What inspired your idea for a women’s learning exchange as opposed to a broader community workshop?

LM: If you want the real story, the idea originated at a previous climate workshop when I saw women getting up to speak and getting cat-called by some of the men in attendance. Their input was marginalized. Women are often excluded from environmental decision-making including policy discussions about conservation and resource use, so we wanted to figure out a way to ensure that their voices would be heard and that they could help to shape climate solutions. This learning exchange will be the first time that these women from across the Pacific are all together in a space to discuss their ideas and climate solutions. By bringing these women together and creating a platform, we believe that we will be able to validate the critical role that women play in adaptation, strengthen existing adaptation actions, and help to leverage these solutions across the region.

You focus on the Pacific in your work. Why is this region important for climate solutions?

LM: Islands across the Pacific are literally on the frontline of climate change and are among the most vulnerable to coastal storms, sea level rise, ocean acidification and changing rainfall patterns. These effects are already being felt by communities in the Pacific, resulting in a lot of political will and motivation to take action. The Nature Conservancy has a 25-year track record of success in the Pacific and has relationships with leaders from the local level up to the national stage, which gives us the dual opportunity of cultivating solutions for some of the most at-risk communities and scaling them up to implement solutions around the world. Most importantly, cultural identity is tied to the land. When land is lost, culture is lost. We have a moral imperative to focus our work in this area and an opportunity to make a significant contribution to improve people’s lives.

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Coral Triangle – Tourism & Recreation


Reducing Local and Direct Environmental Impacts Associated with Diving and Snorkelling Tourism Activities to Increase Reef Resilience

Location
Green Fins is currently active in six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, The Maldives, The Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam

Green Fins is currently active in 18 locations throughout Asia including the Maldives. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins is currently active in 18 locations throughout Asia including the Maldives. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

The Challenge
Coral reefs are globally important ecosystems facing intense and unprecedented pressures. Major global issues like marine debris, coral bleaching and illegal fishing mean that experts predict at least 60% of the world’s coral reefs will be destroyed within the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the tourism industry dependent upon these reefs continues to show considerable economic growth. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (2014), tourism and travel sector activities generate 9.8% of GDP and support nearly 277 million people in employment, representing one in every eleven jobs globally. The World Tourism Organization predicts that, by 2020, over 1.56 billion international trips will be made each year, most of them intra-regional and with the highest numbers in Europe, followed by East Asia and the Pacific, with coastal tourism constituting a significant part of this.

However, tourism can constitute a locally significant driver of environmental degradation, putting pressures on the ecosystem through direct and indirect impacts associated with developing infrastructure as well as other activities. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are nowadays accessible to, and enjoyed by, a mass audience, which brings more and more people into marine habitats with very limited knowledge of the fragility of the environment. Intensive SCUBA diving and boating can directly damage marine habitats, making them susceptible to other stresses and degrading marine life health. Reports have shown that areas heavily used for recreational diving show higher incidences of coral tissue abrasion from anchor damage and diver damage as well as increased coral disease when compared to less frequently visited sites. As a result, marine tourism currently constitutes an increasing threat to the natural resource from which it has grown, and thus risks to undermine a key source of development and income to coastal nations. Local impacts such as these will greatly reduce reef resilience in the face of global threats like climate change. If left unmanaged, the rapid growth of the diving and snorkelling industry could cause significant damage to coral reefs, particularly in areas of high biodiversity.

Green Fins Members in the Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins Members in the Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Actions Taken
There are a number of past initiatives on tourism impact management in general and diving specifically, with a number of guidelines available to help individual divers reduce their impact on the reef (e.g. Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, CMAS “10 Golden Rules”, Coral Reef Alliance “Best Practice When Diving”, Project AWARE “Ten ways a diver can protect the underwater environment”, Mesoamerican Reef Alliance “A Practical Guide to Good Practice”). However, there are no initiatives like Green Fins which combines a code of conduct with performance assessment and public-private collaboration.

Green Fins was initiated in 2004 to transform the threat of the diving and snorkelling industry into an opportunity to protect coral reefs. Green Fins is implemented internationally through a partnership between the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and The Reef-World Foundation (Reef-World). It is a proven approach (Hunt et al. 2013, Roche et al. 2016) encompassing three main elements; a 15-point environmental code of conduct for dive centers complemented by a robust assessment system to monitor and promote compliance; support towards developing or strengthening implementation of relevant regulatory frameworks; and strategic outreach to and capacity building among dive centers and their customers as well as government partners. Almost 500 operators across Asia have committed to protecting coral reefs by working towards following the Green Fins environmental Code of Conduct.

Green Fins Assessors in El Nido Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins Assessors in El Nido Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Annual assessments are conducted by qualified Green Fins assessors who measure members’ performance against the list of 15 code of conduct activities and associated assessment criteria. Every business activity is given a score in a 330-point impact scoring system; activities posing a greater threat to marine biodiversity (e.g. dropping an anchor) are given a higher impact score than those not posing a threat (e.g. lack of environmental awareness material). Therefore the lower the score, the lower the impacts the businesses have on coral reefs. Continued participation and Green Fins certification is dependent on centers lowering impact scores from year to year. Solutions or alternatives to high-risk activities are agreed upon in collaboration with each business manager. Solutions can range anywhere from effectively separating and recycling the operation’s waste to monitoring local coral bleaching levels. Participation in relevant environmental activities such as citizen science programs or reef cleanup activities is promoted. Assessor training and qualifications are provided by Reef-World to reduce issues associated with inter-assessor variability.

Green Fins booth at the Beijing International Diving Expo. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins booth at the Beijing International Diving Expo. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins works by engaging relevant national authorities and building their capacity to use Green Fins as part of wider marine resource management programs. Green Fins is currently active within the national government frameworks of Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. In Malaysia, the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) adopted Green Fins as a national program in 2009. Recognizing that Green Fins contributes to national priorities and commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity it has been included in the Department’s Key Performance Index (KPI) as well as being a key component of the department’s action plan for delivery of Aichi Target 10. In the Philippines, the Green Fins Code of Conduct has been adopted as a guideline for environmentally sustainable diving under the Departmental Administrative Order (DAO) Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Plan (SCREMP), leading to some national resource allocation for work with the diving industry. Similar efforts are underway in the Maldives and Vietnam.

How successful has it been?
Green Fins is a proven approach to reduce local direct threats to coral reefs associated with diving and snorkel activities, thus building their resilience. Since 2004, Green Fins has expanded throughout popular diving destinations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Nearly 500 dive and snorkel centers have signed up to be Green Fins members by committing to follow the 15 environmental points of the Code of Conduct since the program was launched. In countries where Green Fins has been integrated into National Government action plans, memberships are continually increasing and activities are set to expand to new locations throughout each country. In locations where Green Fins members have been reassessed annually, average assessment scores have continually improved, proving the success of Green Fins as a replicable management strategy to reduce damage to coral reef ecosystems.

Green Fins Ambassadors in Panglao, Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins Ambassadors in Panglao, Philippines. Photo © The Reef-World Foundation

Fifty-three qualified individuals from the National Governments of the Philippines, Malaysia, the Maldives and Vietnam have been trained as Green Fins Assessors to enable further expansion and continued implementation of Green Fins within their respective countries. As Green Fins is introduced to new countries and new locations, new assessors will be trained.

Hundreds of representatives associated with the diving and snorkelling industry (including dive guides, instructors, boat crew, boat captains, resort managers, resort staff, marine resource managers, Government officials and the general public) have received environmental training focused on reducing the threats of the industry on its local natural resources. Twenty-seven local dive guides or instructors from the Philippines have received further training on the conservation and sustainable management of their local coral reefs and have become Green Fins Ambassadors.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:

  • Green Fins has successfully been replicated across tourist destinations in six Asian countries. This has been driven by demand from the industry as well as keenness from the government to manage tourism activities in all major tourist sites. Replication is possible because Reef-World has made capacity building for all levels of implementation readily available through outreach materials, Operational Handbooks and training programs.
  • Due to high industry demand, over subscription of dive centres can quickly become difficult for Green Fins management teams to oversee. It is therefore recommended that implementation focuses on single destinations. Once activities are fully established, replication to a new site can be considered, and so forth.
  • The global tourism market is changing and the Asian tourism market is currently booming. Green Fins has successfully engaged all of these major global tourism markets with outreach and communications adapted to each audience (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean).
  • The approach is documented, and comprehensive guidance material and training is available to resource managers globally through the series of Handbooks for implementation at the dive and snorkel centers, tourist destinations, and at the national governement level.
  • There is a comprehensive collection of outreach and awareness raising material (collated into a Toolbox) available in multiple languages and designed to address key environmental challenges within the diving and snorkelling industry.
  • Green Fins builds meaningful partnerships between the private and public sectors. This has been critical for the successful replication of the program across six countries.
  • Uptake by government has been key in building Green Fins momentum. Government participation is the result of Reef-World and UNEP clearly communicating how Green Fins delivers on their national and international environmental commitments, as well as provides opportunity to strengthen relevant laws and regulations.
  • Green Fins drives sustainable economic growth and better informed consumer choices.
  • Dive Centres which adopt Green Fins have noticed a more loyal repeat customer base that make longer stays and are willing to pay more for services. UNEP and Reef-World are committed to continuing the development, implementation and expansion of Green Fins into new sites and countries, and are looking for partners to collaborate with.

Funding Summary
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
The Rufford Foundation
National Aquarium Limited
Mangroves for the Future
National government budgets of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Maldives and Vietnam
Private sector (diving industry) in-kind support in all active countries

Lead Organizations
United Nations Environment Program
The Reef-World Foundation

Partners
Reef Check Malaysia
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Marine Parks, Malaysia
Sabah Parks
Ministry of Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Maldives
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines
El Nido Foundation
Save Philippine Seas
Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Thailand
Vietnam Institute of Oceanography

Resources
Green Fins awareness raising materials

The Green Fins approach for monitoring and promoting environmentally sustainable scuba diving operations in South East Asia

Recreational Diving Impacts on Coral Reefs and the Adoption of Environmentally Responsible Practices within the SCUBA Diving Industry

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Southeast Asia Training of Trainers – Bali, 2012

The third in a series of Training of Trainers (TOT) workshops included 26 managers from 16 countries and territories. Participants completed the online Reef Resilience course and in‐person training. The workshop focused on building resilience into reef management and the tools that are available to address the impacts of climate change. The meeting brought together managers/trainers from throughout Southeast Asia to learn about and share ideas and led to the completion of in‐country trainings.
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Managing for Resilience – Guadeloupe, 2011

Part of the 4th International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium (ITMEMS), this learning exchange included 58 individuals. The Reef Resilience Network participated as conference leaders and dedicated a day of the conference to resilience concepts, with trainings.

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Resilient MPA Networks – Canada, 2011

This learning exchange consisted of two parts: A pre-International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) workshop with 24 participants that focused on solving problems around MPA network design and implementation and a half-day symposium with 120 attendees. This symposium included a presentation of resilience science and application of advances to management decisions.

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Restoration and Reef Resilience: Your Input is Needed

Coral Restoration photo for survey

Photo © Kemit-Amon Lewis

We are happy to announce that new coral restoration information and resources are coming soon to the Reef Resilience online toolkit and we’d like to hear from you! Please take this short survey and let us know what you need to be more effective in your work on coral restoration.

Because your response is important to us, we are giving away 5 copies of the new National Geographic book ‘Pristine Seas: Journey to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places’ by Enric Sala to participants. You will be prompted to enter into this raffle at the end of the survey.

Thank you for participating in our survey! Take the survey.

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