Greetings dear friends! In my first blog I told you how I am embarking on a career change from hospitality to marine conservation by spending 8 weeks in the Philippines learning about marine conservation and getting practical work experience.
Several people have asked me what I will do after the course finishes in December and my answer was I don’t know. This might seem a daft reply but the truth is I didn’t know many things, especially about employment opportunities for someone without a scientific education.
As a friend succinctly told me ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and she was right.
I have completed the two weeks studying part of the course and I now know what I didn’t know, including the following:
The world’s oceans are more important than the rainforests when it comes to absorbing carbon dioxide – the cause of global warming.
How many destructive fishing techniques actually exist and how they are harmful to other animals and have led to fish stocks being depleted.
The numerous organisations, initiatives, policies, agreements and conventions that exist to protect marine life.
How those international policies and agreements are implemented and managed nationally and regionally within each country.
One needs to have endless patience to see positive change both politically and in the sea – for governments to agree, for treaties to be signed and effected, for fish stocks to recover, for corals to grow.
Good conservation work is always based on sound science but communication is key – the results, conclusions and recommendations of research need to be communicated effectively to governments, policy makers and the general public. Public support cannot be underestimated in any campaign.
Marine conservation covers such a huge range, so where are people focusing their efforts? Here are some of the areas of marine conservation one could choose:
Habitat protection e.g. coral reefs, which are home to many species. Fisheries. Marine chemical pollution. Marine litter. Policy. Sharks/finning. Marine mammals. Invasive species. International trade and vulnerable species to name a few.
These many aspects of marine conservation require a multitude of approaches:
Laws and policies and their enforcement. Data collection and scientific research. Marine protected area management. Alternative livelihoods e.g. tourism, less destructive fishing methods. Area based management. Ecosystem based management and protection. Capacity development – education through awareness campaigns and involvement of stakeholders.
One of the most encouraging things our trainers have told me is that not having a science background is not a disadvantage, as marine conservation is as much about managing people as it is about scientific research.
So now I know what I didn’t know, am I any clearer to deciding what I want to do? There are different issues that interest me so for the time being I will do some further reading and research, however I am certainly feeling much more positive that I will be able to put my skills to use to make a positive impact.
Now the studying part of the eight week course has finished, the practical work experience begins! I’m working as a volunteer for a United Nations Environment Programme initiative called Green Fins.
This unique opportunity is the chance to develop some new valuable skills which will be needed to apply for conservation jobs.
Green Fins focuses on protecting coral reefs as they are a valuable habitat for many species and they are fragile and slow growing. A set of guidelines has been developed for diving centres to follow so they (and their scuba dive customers) can reduce their environmental impact. It is simple and effective. No scientific degree needed – just common sense!
The sad truth is that many divers act irresponsibly under water (standing and sitting on the delicate reef, touching/chasing animals) and are damaging the very environment they want to enjoy.
The Green Fins guidelines empowers the dive staff to prevent this type of behaviour occurring as well as ensuring the general operation of the dive centre is as environmentally friendly as possible.
How do I fit into this? My role as a Green Fins coordinator is to assess, train and provide environmental consultation to the dive centres.
Every year the dive centre is assessed according to the guidelines; from this we are able to determine their impact on the environment and consequently offer advice on how to reduce that impact. It has been proven that those dive centres that follow the guidelines have less damaging impact on the coral reefs and marine life.
I hope I have enlightened you a little and perhaps now you know something new you didn’t know!
Thanks for reading!