It’s been a while since I last wrote and so much has happened over the last few months. The Green Fins annual assessment process in Puerto Galera has largely come to an end and I have just returned from Cebu where I had the amazing opportunity to represent The Reef-World Foundation and present the Green Fins approach to over 100 practitioners and decision makers from 17 countries at the Regional Forum on Solutions for Oceans, Coasts and Human Well-Being In Asia and the Pacific.
A couple of day’s fun diving with the beautiful Thresher sharks in Malapascua following the forum gave me chance to reflect on my time so far as an intern for Reef-World and what an amazing five months its been! The light bulbs have been going off regularly since I arrived in the Philippines in January and puzzle pieces are fitting together in a more concrete manner everyday. Its incredibly rewarding and encouraging when policies, conventions, targets etc. you have read about, been taught in lectures or spoken about with other conservationists all make sense in a real way. By that I mean you understood them before but now you REALLY get them in the practical sense as well as the theoretical sense when you can see them at play in front of your very eyes. It’s even more amazing when you can recognise that you and your fellow colleagues/volunteers are directly assisting numerous countries in reaching important conservation targets and implementing national strategic plans as part of international conventions.
Attending a meeting with the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia and Reef Check Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago on the implementation, expansion and management of Green Fins in Malaysia allowed me to witness and discuss this first hand. As a country that has signed the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD); Malaysia has agreed to develop and implement their national biodiversity strategy and action plan in accordance with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that fall under the CBD. Green Fins, as a conservation initiative that focuses on protecting and conserving coral reefs by implementing environmentally friendly guidelines for the diving and snorkelling industry, fits nicely into Malaysia’s (and other CBD members) national biodiversity strategy and action plan. It fulfils many of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for example Target 10 under Strategic Goal B:
Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use”
Target 10 By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.
Green Fins promotes sustainable use of the coral reefs and the diving/snorkelling industry by reducing the anthropogenic threats caused by this industry such as anchor damage, improper waste discharge, bad diver damage etc. in order to increase the resilience of coral reefs to widespread threats such as climate change. I have been fortunate enough to have been allowed an insight into Green Fins at the grass roots level but also on a national and international level which has been eye opening. At the meeting it was great to see the way in which national budget is assigned to help reach these targets and funding is being distributed to allow initiatives like Green Fins to be implemented and sustained in order to fulfil Strategic Plans for Biodiversity.
Green Fins is quite a specialised conservation approach but there are many different projects, initiatives and approaches in Asia and the Pacific (and the rest of the world!) that help each country to reach their targets for the CBD. The forum in Cebu was a brilliant opportunity to learn about different ‘blue solutions’ that have been implemented to help countries in the region reach these targets. Other solutions included establishing MPA learning sites, integrated mangrove fishery farming systems, strategies on coastal erosion and restoration to preserve ecosystem biodiversity to name but a few. Experiences were shared, successes were celebrated, challenges were discussed and lessons were learned. A successful forum in my opinion! During the forum the Green Fins initiative was invited to new locations and countries so hopefully we can assist more countries in their goal to safeguard marine biodiversity. As the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind...the puzzle continues to expand, but that’s marine conservation for you…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.