[Coral-List] Sustainable Coral Reef/Dive Operator Certification?

Monika Franck monikafranck at email.com
Thu Nov 24 11:59:01 EST 2011

Dear Bastiaan - responding to your "Value of Hawaiian Reefs" email.

 I think you have a  *great idea to develop a globally recognised system that motivates all users*; (hotel/tourism business, divers, dive operators, sports/recreational fisherman, commercial and local fishermen and snorkellers (beach bathers) to visit and use coral reefs or marine resources sustainably *:*

 *1)* You might want to  /try a certification system/ for hotel/dive operators/dive spots/beaches etc similar to a 5 Star status of a hotel to give users an idea; of not only in what physical shape the coral reef/beach is, but also how well it is being enforced/cared/managed for to ensure it stays in good health, and that your visit as a diver/fisher/tourism business is not contributing to its destruction and lack of fish, coral etc.

 For example a dive operator would get  *1 seastar* on their brochure/online site if they had diver environmental education as part of their course/dive trip (content e.g. don't touch/remove anything, don't let your fins or depth gauge drag on the reef and break off coral etc..),  *2 seastars* if they also have capacity control,  *3 seastars* if they have a clean beach/reef (water quality too) with public litter/water awareness and clean up dives,  *4 seastars* if operator contributes financially/physically to enforcement of the protection of the reef, and  *5 seastars* if they have a pristine reef with its necessary management in place to keep it pristine. For divers/hoteliers and tourists it needs to be a simple and easily understood system a non-scientist understands enough to know that it benefits the user and not only the coral reef. 

 What happens behind the scenes as to how the reef/operator/hotel/community actually acquires the sustainable coral reef certification may have more criteria/be more complex and integrate with a greater marine resource use framework. Similar to what the MSC have in place for global commercial fishing and giving consumers a sustainable choice when shopping for seafood (http://www.msc.org/). Similar for beaches is the Blue Flag voluntary innitiative (www.blueflag.org), look at their criteria for ideas. Some sustainable certification efforts have attracted criticism but they remain a good step in the right direction to raising awareness in consumers and providing a sustainable choice.

 Critical though is that auditors of such certification remain ethical, true to aims and independant (not paid by the business wanting the certification), otherwise it could become just another greenwash lable that can be paid for to mislead people into choosing a product that is not necessarily as sustainable in practice as it looks on paper. Also if not implemented correctly, it might become a trade barrier for poorer coastal communities who do not always have the funds to pay for or the know-how for such certification, and lose out on the global market. Such communities or operators would need help with knowledge and funding for sustainable certification via NGO's or government policies to encourage and maintain sustainable use.

 *2)* I as a diver for example would be  /willing to pay more or to dive a protected and well enforced and managed area/, who's diving/tourism fees are also benefitting the local community (not just the hotel, government or dive operator), thereby incentivise users to protect their coral reef resources instead of fish it to pieces or allow commercial fishing to trawl it to pieces for less profit, than a reef is worth in the long term through tourism (diving etc), and well managed local fishing without destructive methods. 

 *3)* *Capacity control*: the system should also reward dive operators and tourism business that do not over commercialise, and who actively restrict tourist/diver numbers from damaging marine resources such as coral reefs by over exploitation such as too many divers or fishing. For example as a diver I would rather want to dive a well managed site who's dive operator limits the number of diver's per dive/day/year accordingly, to prevent damage to coral reef or fish behaviour eg. spawning aggregations from being disturbed etc. important to fish breeding.

 Problem is there is no standard internationally recognised dive operator or hotel/tourism certification/value system in place to inform me as a diver/tourist as to which operaters/users care about the health of the marine resource their business relies on, so that I as a diver/tourist can make a responsible and informed choice of which dive sites/dive operators to pick. 

 That is an indicator flagging to consumers businesses operating sustainably and contributing to good management enforcement of the marine resource they exploit/use, and should be rewarded by being chosen by divers/tourists wishing to reward environmentally considerate business which gives back to nature and guards and values ecosystem services to sustain long term profit, not just plunder for short term profit/gain.

 Also look at this paper on part of the value subject:  *Peters, H. and Hawkins, J.P. (2009).  /Access to marine parks: A comparative study in willingness to pay/, Ocean & Coastal Management 52, 219-228.*

 All the best with your idea. Its an urgently needed tool and probably requires international input and co-operation from various stakeholders such as divers, dive operators, marine scientists, fishing industry, sport fishermen, tourism business owners, environment departments of governments and NGO's.

 best wishes

----- Original Message -----
From: Bastiaan Vermonden
Sent: 11/21/11 02:39 PM
To: Christopher Hawkins
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Reefs - why cant we all just get along? :-)

 Dear Coral Listers, I would like to ask all of you your opinions regarding an idea for a economic strategy which I hope would lead to better protection of coral reefs and the enforcement of marine parks. I also think it fits in well with the discussion about valueing reefs. So my idea began with the question why doesn't the recreational diving and snorkeling tourism industry invest more in coral reefs and hold politicians accountable when they fail to provide sufficient resources to maintain and protect marine parks. *I believe this is due to a basic economic market failure.* What you would expect in a proper economic market is that the price of a good is related to the quality of that good. So to use cars as a metaphor you expect to pay more for a sportscar which goes from 0 to 100 km per hour in 4 seconds than one that does it in 10 seconds. However when we look at tourism related to coral reefs I have the feeling although I cannot substantiate it with hard data that this!
  is not the case for coral reef re
lated tourism. There are locations where the reef is so degraded that it has no recreational value and places where the quality is so good that it is very expensive to visit but in between I have the feeling prices are approximately the same. I believe this is due to local pricing competition which drives down prices to levels which are close to the cost price of organizing diving, snorkeling, recreational angling trips or other tourism activities. I believe that this problem largely exists because recreational users do not have the quantitative data to properly compare different destinations. So for example divers now have to rely on qualitative (anecdotal) evidence to determine which place they should visit. So for example if we have 2 different destinations and both state that divers sometimes see sharks there, then which place is the better one to visit? Maybe at one location there is a 1 in 100 (1%) chance and at the other there is a 1 in 20 (5%) chance of encountering !
 a shark, this is a big difference 
but without this quantitative data the diver has to hope he is lucky and chooses the right location. However if we inform divers with quantitative data which area is the best then divers will always choose the best place they can afford. So if divers do not know the difference between the 2 locations they have a 50% chance of choosing the best location however if they know the quantitative difference they will have a 100% chance of choosing the best place. This means that the destination where the chance of encountering a shark is 1% has to start improving or lower its prices to become competitive while the other has a strong incentive to protect its sharks to maintain its advantage. So with this quantitative data we can create a national/regional/global market which competes on quality rather than a local market that competes on price. * Setting a standard* Of course to compare different locations it is necessary to have some standardized measures of comparison that can be !
 applied to all or nearly all desti
nations. I spent some time thinking of this and think that one interesting standard could be the biomass compared to the biomass of a pristine reef. The Northern line islands are some of the last examples of what are considered pristine islands http://www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited/stories/line-islandswith the biomass at the most pristine reefs being around 530 grams per square meter. So if we round this down to 500 grams per square meter then we can compare the biomass of destinations to this benchmark as a percentage. This allows divers to compare locations and resets their baseline for what constitutes a healthy reef. Then for coral cover we can use the more conventional measure of percentage of live coral cover. So I made a map of biomass in the Caribbean compared to this benchmark and it can be found here along with the standard: http://bastiaan.reislogger.nl/foto/idea/ (I don't have my own website so I used my travelblog website) According to this map !
 divers should choose Cuba as their
 next diving destination or otherwise Yucatan Mexico. Then next are the countries/islands with 27% of pristine biomass. So with such a map you hope that destinations start to compete with one another so for example Martinique needs to increase its biomass only 3% from 24% to 27% to become competitive with 3rd highest rated locations. Meanwhile those locations rated at 27% only need a small increase to be the third best in the region. Guadeloupe meanwhile needs to improve 4% to become competitive with Martinique. What we see is that countries only need to make small steps to increase their competitiveness. Rather than having to make a huge step to superb quality and then hope their reputation grows they can make small steps to improve their competitive advantage assuming that the area is given a new rating regularly. Of course my standard is one suggestion but it can also be a different one. What is essential is that it lets recreational users easily compare and that it is tr!
 uly indicative of the health of th
e reef. Users should not be decision paralyzed by to much information or actually demand less healthy reef environments. (this might be a problem with sharks) *Intended Consequence* So the intention of this idea would be to reward countries who manage their marine environment well with increased or higher value tourism and make countries accountable to the market if they do not manage their marine life well. Hopefully its effect would be Increased biomass = healthier environment = increased business = increased political support Additionally I hope that this will increase the demand for services which assist Marine parks, governments, resorts etc with management advice, monitoring, reef restoration and more because reef quality would be more directly related to tourism demand. This could increase marine conservation effectiveness and decrease protection costs. And decreased costs of protection would lower the barrier to the implementation of more marine protection. *Thank yo!
 u *If you read my whole idea I wou
ld first like to say thank you. So what do you all think of this a good or bad idea? how technically feasible is this idea? what questions do you all have for me and etc? Regards, Bastiaan Vermonden _______________________________________________ Coral-List mailing list Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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