With Reef-World and the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative active in 11 (and counting!) countries around the world, there are lots of different sustainability journeys to share with each country at a different stage in the programme’s implementation.

We know from experience that sharing our stories, successes and challenges is one way we can streamline progress; something that was particularly evident during the recent Green Fins Assessor Exchange programme where Assessors from Malaysia (Reef Check Malaysia) and Indonesia (Coral Triangle Center) spent a week conducting joint assessments and learning from each other. Today, it’s Green Fins Indonesia’s turn to take the spotlight…

Indonesia – a renowned diving destination – has a booming marine tourism industry with divers coming from around the world to experience its muck diving, zipping currents and the chance to see manta rays and molas. While there is spectacular diving across the country, Bali has long been known as a particular hotspot for divers. What’s more, Bali’s dive industry is particularly passionate about coral reef protection and reducing threats to the marine environment.

Indonesia first had a taste of the Green Fins initiative in 2009 when Reef-World’s newly designed Assessor Training Programme was tested in Manado through the Ministry of Environment. Many lessons were learned during this pilot. While individual champions in the Ministry were keen on the initiative, the Reef-World team realised long-term success would be a challenge if the Green Fins programme was not institutionalised. At this time, the Ministry of Environment wasn’t at the stage where they were able to integrate Green Fins into their national programmes.

This meant that the initiative couldn’t take hold in Indonesia at this time but, as a result, it shaped the way Reef-World worked with government partners: finding the right partner with the knowledge, capacity and contacts to implement Green Fins; and a clear plan to allow these champions to include the programme in jurisdiction, to guarantee ongoing support and success. Government capacity can often be a challenge – and this was the case for Indonesia too – which is why it can be useful to work in partnership with local NGOs; in this instance, could we find a suitable NGO to be our champion and help us push forward with a successful launch?

Fast forward to 2017 and the pieces of the puzzle – some of which had been missing before – were falling into place. A suitable implementation partner came about in the form of renowned Bali-based NGO Coral Triangle Center (CTC); an organisation we’d met back in 2015 when CTC had identified Green Fins as a means of delivering on sustainable tourism and MPA programmes. In August 2017, Reef-World’s Director JJ set up a scoping trip to meet with two members of the team: Marthen Welly and Wira Sanjaya (Jaya). The meetings (and dives!) went well and, together, Reef-World and CTC developed a long-term plan for Green Fins Indonesia…  

In partnership with the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) and the Bali Professional Divers Association, Reef-World and CTC re-launched Green Fins Indonesia in Bali in 2018 with membership available for dive shops in Sanur, Kuta and Nusa Penida. As soon as Marthen and Jaya were trained as Green Fins assessors in January 2018, we knew we’d made a great choice in our assessors: they were naturals. Both Marthen and Jaya were quick to see the value of Green Fins as a management tool and an opportunity to build stronger, more collaborative relationships with the diving industry. In response to their passion and expertise, the island’s dive and snorkel operators were incredibly receptive to the environmental changes being asked of them. It’s not just in Indonesia that governments can be quite surprised when they hear how willing the industry is to assist them in improving sustainability measures – this is often a common theme with Green Fins rollouts. 

The Green Fins team in Indonesia is incredibly busy: since their assessor training, they’ve been focusing on trying to meet the high demand from dive centres in Bali and Nusa Penida. There are around 150 dive centres in Bali alone and many of those have a strong interest in conservation and sustainability. As you might imagine, the assessors’ inboxes are bursting with requests for membership from all around the country. Marthen and Jaya – who are already busy with their CTC work – often have to squeeze in assessments during their weekends to keep up with demand. When prospective members realise how many other operators are also on the waiting list for their assessment, while we’re building the capacity of the team, they’re usually happy to wait and are always very grateful when they can be assessed and become members.

One of the key strengths of the Green Fins network is that the same approach can be effective for different situations across different locations and that knowledge exchange is extremely powerful. Whether it be individual dive operators, corporate partners or – as in this instance – national teams of active Green Fins countries, sharing challenges, successes and learnings is a sure-fire way for all of us to help each other in our sustainability journey.

That’s why, in May 2019, The Reef-World Foundation completed its first ever Assessor Exchange programme. Newly certified Green Fins Assessor Trainer Alvin Chelliah, from Reef Check Malaysia, spent a week visiting Marthen and Jaya. The two teams conducted Green Fins assessments and trainings for three dive operators in Bali. They also hosted a workshop during which they discussed and shared their experiences to see how they could help each other learn and improve their processes.

Speaking of the exchange, Marthen said: “There were lots of lessons learned from Green Fins Malaysia in terms of implementation assessment and training, management of members, dealing with critical issues, program expansion and assessor recruitment as well as working together with government and dive centres.”

Now, plans for Green Fins’ expansion across the country – to meet the high levels of demand – are well underway. Both the number of assessors and the number of destinations reached are due to increase over the next few years. The first step towards this was a new assessor training session which ran in Ambon – part of Indonesia’s Maluku Islands – in October 2019.

The new assessors are each from different regions in Indonesia, including Ambon itself. This dive destination is rapidly growing in popularity for being the only place in the world you can see the psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica). That’s why it was important for us to implement Green Fins while the destination is still developing: by reaching the Ambon dive industry before it gets too big, the Green Fins Indonesia team can set the bar for environmental standards and make sustainable diving practices the norm in the area. Similarly, in time, our new assessors will also help us reach dive shops in Jakarta, Maluku, North Maluku and West Papua.

It’s an exciting time for Green Fins Indonesia. Despite the challenges we always face when rolling out Green Fins (it’s great to see continuing interest and we’re working hard to find the funding and build the capacity needed to meet these levels of demand), we're confident and excited about how we can continue the momentum that is well underway.   

You can find a list of active Green Fins operators in Indonesia here.

 If your dive or snorkel operator is located in Indonesia and you’d like to join Green Fins, please email [email protected] with a completed membership form.