Sept/Oct 2016 - Green Fins Maldives - Expansion to Baa Atoll (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) From the 17th September to the 4th October, staff from The Reef-World Foundation were in the Maldives to support the Green Fins national team with the expansion of the initiative and to provide training for additional members of the team. Since Green Fins was implemented in Maldives in 2014, the national team of Green Fins based at the Environmental Protection Agency have focussed on a steady progression of introducing Green Fins on an Atoll by Atoll basis, taking the time to slowly build up the capacity of the team and to help provide solutions to local issues. Since February 2014, Green Fins Maldives has been introduced in the Male region, North and South Ari Atoll with the support of IUCN Maldives and other individual volunteers. Since its inception, there has been a large request to the national team for membership from keen dive centres who want to have their staff trained to the high environmental standards that Green Fins provides. The Baa Atoll in the west central area of the Maldives in a world renowned tourism hotspot with many hundreds of thousands of tourists coming to visit the beautiful reefs that are frequented by large numbers of resident Maldivian Manta rays and many Whale Sharks that aggregate during certain months of the year. This UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve has within it specific protected sites including Hanifaru Bay where the Manta’s can easily be seen by snorkelling tourists after purchasing a permit. Due to the numerous requests from the resorts in the Atoll to have their dive centres Green Fins trained and certified, it was decided to expand to this important region. With the support and in collaboration with the staff from the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Office (BR Office) and the EPA, a Green Fins Assessor and Coordinator training programme took place at the main office on Eydhafushi island where an additional 5 staff were trained to support the programme including the rangers of the Biosphere reserve itself. This will better enable the management of the Baa Atoll Green Fins members. You can read more about the training workshop here. Following on from the Green Fins Assessor training workshop, recruitment and training of new Green Fins members across Baa Atoll took place where new members were trained in environmentally friendly and sustainable diving and snorkelling techniques and given more information on how their business can reduce their impact on the marine environment. There was some very positive feedback from the dive centres and resort staff saying how useful Green Fins will be to them to better help manage their guests and staff in this precious and unique marine environment. It also allowed the chance for staff of the resorts and the dive and snorkel centres to provide feedback to the government, the Rangers and Green Fins Assessors on various local environmental matters and issues that matter to them. If you are resort with a dive or snorkel centre in Baa Atoll and are interested in joining Green Fins then please fill out a Membership form and send to [email protected] and the team will be in touch upon availability.