Koror, Palau. “I admit in the years I have been involved in conservation or environmental protection, we were always working independently from each other. This effort bringing the states, tourism sector, Non-government Organizations, our research authorities, and relevant government agencies together to look at how the Green Fins management approach can help improve the way we manage our marine environment to reduce tourism pressure on coral reefs, is a very good step forward, and a good example of how we as a community should work together to protect and sustain our reefs”, stated Minister Sengebau at the opening of the Green Fins Workshop at the Palau Coral Reef Center on March 1st.
The opening of the three day Green Fins Workshop conducted by Reef World Foundation was attended by state conservation officers and rangers from Koror, Melekeok, Ngardmau, and Ngarchelong, the Director of the Bureau of Tourism, Managing Director of Palau Visitors Authority, Executive Director of Belau Tourism Association, Executive Director of Palau Conservation Society, CEO of the Palau International Coral Reef Center and representatives of major dive and snorkeling centers in Palau to include Fish n Fins, NECO Marine, Sam’s Tours, IMPAC Uel Cruise, and Palau Dive Adventures.
The Green Fins Management Approach at its core engages dive and snorkel centers to a set of Code of Conducts that promote exercise of eco-responsible behavior by divers and snorkelers when diving or snorkeling the reefs. The state representatives who participated in the workshop saw Green Fins as a great tool which establishes a common theme and understanding between them and the marine tourism operators, and will help improve their ability to manage tourism in their states.
The Green Fins approach also provides an assessment system where state officers can act as assessors for compliance to the Green Fins Code of Conduct. Dive and snorkel centers who participate as Green Fins members are shown online in the Green Fins website. Centers who render high ratings in the assessments are displayed on the Green Fins website, and each member center will have a real chance of winning an award as top center at regional and international tourism industry expos and events. Green Fins is a network of over 400 dive and snorkel centers, supported by their governments and local environmental champions.
The aim of the workshop was to develop an appropriate roadmap for applying sustainable marine tourism approaches to reduce tourist impact on coral reefs in Palau. A viable roadmap setting out a course of action for 2017 was developed and agreed to with great input from the participants.
The workshop ended on Friday and closed by Leilani Reklai, President of the Belau Tourism Association. In her closing, Ms. Reklai stated “the Green Fins management approach delivers on key objectives of Palau’s Responsible Tourism Framework and is in line with industry’s goals to raise the standard of our services to match our premier marine product”. The three day workshop was sponsored by JICA and organized by the Japan Wildlife Research Center (JWRC), PICRC, PCS, Reef World Foundation, and supported by UNEP. [/restrict]