Up to this point I have not discussed too much about what I have actually been doing. I was talking with a friend back home who said that sometimes she forgets I’m actually working and not just enjoying a holiday. With only a few days left now seems like a good time to highlight all of the hard and successful work that we have been able to accomplish during our seven weeks on the island.
The main focus of our work here is through a program called Green Fins. It is an initiative that works with dive centers to create a more sustainable dive industry by helping the shops reduce their environmental threats. We do this by working with each of the individual dive shops. After a shop becomes a member we spend a day with them observing how the shop operates and how dives are conducting all through an environmental lens. Then we compile all this information and present the findings back to the managers. Together with the managers we determine some ways that the shop could improve in the next year. This process is repeated each year so that over time the shop will greatly reduce its impact. Also we provide environmental training for the entire staff. This includes information about coral reef ecology and threats to the reefs.
Green Fins was very successful this year as all eighteen of the dive shops on the island are now members. About half of these are new members that Weenie and I recruited. We have given training presentations to fourteen of the shops and have reached over 125 people so far. The hard work doesn’t stop because its the last couple of days either as we have two more presentations scheduled for tomorrow.
During this time I also have been working on creating an environmental education program for the local fisherman of the island and the rest of the municipality on the mainland. To complete this task I have worked with the Bantay Dagat, the local fish wardens, who have translated the materials and have been trained to present the information. The municipal tour kicked off yesterday with a very successful event at the same location of the local disco! There’s no stopping the momentum as there is another presentation this afternoon at a different village on the island and about ten to fifteen more stops after we leave.
On top of all that Weenie trained a group of local dive guides to be Green Fins ambassadors to represent Green Fins all year long. We have worked with more with the Bantay Dagat and local dive guide association to provide environmental consultation for local legislation regulating the dive industry on Malapascua. We worked with the dive shop’s own marine protection group. One of the most rewarding things to see is that we have been a catalyst for action and collaboration between all these groups. There has been a flurry of activity in the last couple of weeks and I don’t see it stopping once we leave.
So while living on an island paradise may seem like I’m off half way around the world on an extended vacation (and at times I definitely get to enjoy it as such), there has been plenty of hard work and a great deal accomplished. It will be tough to leave this small island after investing so much here, but I’m sure I won’t be able to resist its pull for too long.