CDWS calls for diving and snorkelling operators to reduce their environmental impact by joining Green Fins

The Reef-World Foundation and Chamber of Diving & Watersports (CDWS) are pleased to announce Egypt is adopting Green Fins environmental standards to protect its coral reefs.

Through the implementation of the Green Fins initiative nationally (South Sinai Governorate from September and Red Sea Governorate from March), the Egyptian marine tourism industry is playing its part in protecting coral reefs from the negative impacts associated with diving and snorkelling. The Ministry of Environment will be CDWS’ main counterpart in the implementation of Green Fins Egypt. The country has become the first in its region and the 11th worldwide to officially adopt Green Fins. Green Fins is one element of CDWS’ ambitious action plan to strengthen sustainability within the marine tourism sector across Egypt.

The initiative will be piloted in South Sinai Governorate and expanded to be available to all dive and snorkel operators nationwide by March 2020. Following a week of training by Reef-World (22-28 September 2019), Egypt now has a team of four Green Fins Assessors in South Sinai Governorate. The Green Fins Assessor team is comprised of CDWS representatives who are now certified to recruit, train and conduct assessments of new Green Fins members in the country. As such, dive operators in South Sinai Governorate are now able to register their interest in becoming a Green Fins member by contacting the Green Fins Team at CDWS ([email protected]).

The new assessors are now fully certified to provide training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators. The second phase of national introduction will see 4-5 more assessors trained in the Red Sea Governorate in March 2020 and CDWS is calling for interested operators in the region to sign up in advance.

Egypt is a popular holiday destination with 11.3 million tourists visiting in 2018; up from 8.3 million in 2017. Of these, there are approximately 500 businesses providing diving and snorkelling activities in the Red Sea and an estimated three million divers and snorkellers visiting the region each year. The CDWS is rallying dive centres to join the Green Fins initiative to help improve their sustainability and prove they are following environmental best practice as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris as well the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support, based on robust individual assessments, to dive and snorkel operators. Reef-World hopes to significantly reduce negative environmental impacts on coral reefs in the Egypt by reaching 30 marine tourism operators, training 150 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practice among 30,000 tourists during Green Fins’ first year of implementation.

Green Fins is a UN Environment initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance. Reducing diving and snorkelling-related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, helps to make them more resilient to other stressors such as those associated with climate change.

While Green Fins is usually adopted by a government body (which integrates the programme’s activities with their annual plans and absorbs associated costs), in Egypt the industry has collaborated to bring Green Fins to the area through the CDWS. CDWS is a non-profit organisation and Egyptian operators pay an annual CDWS membership fee of 5,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) to cover costs associated with audits. For those who would like to voluntarily participate in Green Fins, an additional fee will be charged to cover the associated costs of the programme.

The Green Fins approach includes proven assessment criteria to identify and mitigate high-risk practices both above and below the water. Green Fins members are evaluated annually based on a 15-point code of conduct, which measures the company’s impact on coral reefs: of a possible score of 330, the lower the score, the lower its impact. The assessment then enables Green Fins assessors to offer practical alternatives to the most pressing threats posed by that business. To ensure its members are fully compliant with the Green Fins Code of Conduct, the CDWS will introduce a minimum environmental impact benchmark of for Green Fins certification. This is a world first for Green Fins.

Green Fins assessor team L-R Hany George; Quality assurance auditor, Maissa Elyazi, training and development coordinator, Ismail M. Ismail, CDWS Secretary General (2)The newly qualified Green Fins Assessors will be carrying out robust assessments to evaluate the environmental impact of dive and snorkel operators and providing one-to-one consultation to help the business develop and implement best practice to improve the sustainability of the marine tourism industry. The individual feedback and support provided – which includes practical, low-cost alternatives to common threats to the marine environment such as anchoring, provision of single use plastics such as plastic bottles and lack of awareness to existing rules and regulations – is based on each company’s area of highest negative impact on the reef, as determined by the assessment.

To date, four Egyptian dive and snorkel operators have already joined the global network of nearly 600 trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Reef Oasis Dive Club, Water Land 3 Diving Centre, Diving and Discovery and Camel Dive Club and Resort. There has also been significant interest from other operators who have signed the membership form and are looking forward to their training and assessment. The CDWS aims to certify 30 dive centres in the coming year.

Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be helping protect Red Sea coral reefs by bringing Green Fins to Egypt; the first country in the Middle East and the 11th country worldwide to adopt the initiative. As one of the original global diving destinations, the diving community in Egypt has shaped the way we dive and travel today, so I’m really pleased to be working with them to lead the way in sustainability within our industry. In fact, I learned to dive here aged 12 which has dramatically influenced my life dramatically and the way I have developed the Green Fins programme as a whole.

She continued: “Through Green Fins, dive and snorkel operators in the region can improve their environmental best practices and reduce their negative impact on coral reefs; helping to conserve these vital ecosystems for many generations to come. The programme is initially launching in South Sinai Governorate with the Red Sea Governorate to follow in March 2020 so we urge dive operators in both regions to get in touch if they are interested in proving they follow environmental best practice by achieving a Green Fins certification.” 

Hesham Gabr, Chair of the Chamber of Diving & Watersports, said: “Fortunately, the Red Sea is blessed to have a pristine underwater world with crystal clear visibility, warm waters and a thriving aquatic ecosystem. From large, multi-coloured coral reef systems home to several fish species to the presence of the BIG underwater creatures, we are lucky to be the custodians of a naturally rich and beautiful environment. Since the start of the 2019 summer alone, we have already had multiple sightings of whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, hammerheads, oceanic reef sharks and much, much more! It is so important that we protect and preserve the Red Sea’s exquisite marine life for future generations. As such, we are excited to promote environmental best practice to our members and help them reduce negative impacts on life under the sea, through the implementation of the Green Fins initiative.”

Ahmed el Wassief, Chair of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, said: “Sustainability is a crucial element of the Egypt Tourism Reform Program that Egypt is undertaking to improve the standards and the quality of both the touristic infrastructure and its human element. The effort will surely put Egyptian tourism at the forefront of Eastern Mediterranean destinations. And has so far resulted in Egypt being the fourth highest improvement in tourism competitiveness.”

The launch of Green Fins Egypt was made possible thanks to financing support from the United Nations Development Programme through its project “Mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into the tourism development and operations in threatened ecosystems in Egypt.”

 For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org, www.greenfins.net or http://www.cdws.travel. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up to Green Fins can find the membership application form at: https://www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.