It feels like I haven’t been at my desk much recently; it’s been a whirlwind from the meeting dive industry stakeholders at ADEX Singapore to assessor training sessions on Tioman Island, Malaysia, and working alongside the DENR to run assessments of 14 Green Fins assessments in Malapascua, Philippines.
But, while being out and about so much isn’t always friendly on the email inbox, the experiences you have and connections you make in the field are worth the game of email-catch up when you make it back to the office.
At ADEX, we had the chance to touch base with several partners, Green Fins members and industry leaders to hear about their successes and challenges over the past year and where their priorities lie for the coming months. As you might expect, plastics was a hot topic.
In particular, Reef-World’s Sustainable Diving Events were packed out and it was great to hear insights from people across the diving industry about how we can all minimise our environmental impact. It’s inspiring to see ideas and innovations from people across the industry and motivates me that, by working together and sharing these insights, we can make a difference even more quickly.
After a brief stint in the office it was off to Tioman Island where we joined some of the Reef Check Malaysia team on a week of Green Fins training.
This is where it all gets a bit Inception-esque: are you ready…?
Alvin, Sue and Ira from Reef Check had just completed Reef-World’s first ever “Train the Trainer” course, stretching them from Assessors to Assessor Trainers. That meant they were now qualified to train new Green Fins assessors - starting with two members of their Reef Check Malaysia team: Edmund and Shahir. (Keep up with that? I hope so). This type of capacity building is key as the Green Fins network continues to expand around the world; with more and more dive operators wanting to become members, we need to ensure there are enough Green Fins assessors to keep up with demand.
With all that knowledge and expertise in the room, you'd expect I'd have learned a huge amount from the trainers, all of whom have extensive experience under their belts. And, of course, I did. But I also picked up a lot from the inquisitive new trainees - because sometimes fresh eyes give you a whole new perspective.
Firstly, you'd think the Reef-World team would have heard every question there was about our work by now. But even project manager and longstanding team member Sam came upon a first when Edmund shared a question he’d been asked recently: “Does the gas from scuba equipment add to greenhouse gases and climate change?”
The new assessors, Edmund and Shahir, each brought a fresh perspective to the training and, as a result, had their own ways of explaining things. For example, they digested the Green Fins awareness raising presentation (which we give to member dive schools each year to teach them about coral reefs and what they can do to protect the marine environment) and, when they presented it themselves, each added their own spin, personality and flair.
They helped illustrate the relationship between an individual coral polyp to a colony and reef by comparing them to an individual person (polyp) in their apartment building (colony) and apartment itself sitting in a town or city (coral reef); a useful analogy that I’ll be using in my own training sessions in future!
Global warming was explained by comparing the layers of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to blankets: the more layers (/blankets) you add, the warmer it gets.
I particularly liked Edmund’s reference to the Coral Song (a favourite of mine - anything that includes the Coral Song is a winner in my book) in his presentation:
"Would you step on a cat or a dog? No, it's an animal,” he told his audience of dive professionals. “So don't step on coral - that's an animal too!"
From Malaysia to Malapascua (via another brief stretch in the office) and myself and two members of the Reef-World team joined five members from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Together, the 8 of us - all Green Fins assessors - spent a week visiting 14 dive operators on Malapascua to conduct assessments and help them continue to reduce their environmental impact.
Trekking from dive centre to dive centre, with all your gear, evaluating dive centres, presenting to the staff and having meetings with the managers - while trying to keep up with your other tasks in any gaps in the schedule - can be pretty exhausting. But it’s this work on the ground that reminds us how hard Green Fins member dive centres are working to minimise their environmental impact and how much of a positive impact we can have if we all make small but important changes to our processes.
But, for now, it’s a break from field work and back to the emails… Wish me luck!