Antigua & Barbuda Adopts Green Fins Standards for Marine Tourism
Antigua and Barbuda has become the tenth country to formally adopt the Green Fins initiative - the second nation in the Caribbean and the first English-speaking country in the western hemisphere to do so.
Green Fins is a UN Environment programme, internationally coordinated by the Reef World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally-friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. The initiative has seen notable success in the Asia-Pacific region, with Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, The Philippines, Maldives, Indonesia and Palau already on board, along with the Dominican Republic, the first western nation to adopt the programme.
Despite only having a population of just over 100,000 people, Antigua and Barbuda is a popular tourist hotspot, especially on the cruise ship circuit. In 2018, the island nation received more than one million cruise ship visitors, plus some 285,000 overnight visitors. It is estimated there are over 30 businesses which provide either snorkelling or diving activities to tourists. Reef-World hopes the new Green Fins initiative will significantly reduce the environmental impact on coral reefs, by reaching at least 10,000 tourists in the coming year.
Following training by Reef-World, Antigua and Barbuda now has a national team comprised of two senior Green Fins Network leaders and three Green Fins assessors. The team, formed by personnel from the Ministry of Tourism and the Fisheries Division is now certified to recruit, train and conduct assessments of new Green Fins members in-country. Robust assessments will be carried out on local dive and snorkel operators to evaluate their impact on the marine environment, and one-to-one consultations will follow to help local businesses implement best practice to improve the sustainability of the marine tourism industry. The feedback provided will include practical, low-cost alternatives to practices that threaten the marine environment, such as anchoring, single-use plastics and lack of awareness of existing regulations.
Three dive schools have so far joined the Green Fins programme, placing them within a global network of more than 560 trained and assessed Green Fins dive and snorkel operators, but it is expected that more will follow. 'We’re hoping that through this programme we’ll have more diving and snorkelling businesses coming on board to ensure the practices across that industry remain environmentally friendly,' said Vashti Casimir, Antigua and Barbuda’s Senior Tourism Officer Responsible for Sustainable Tourism.
'This is a tremendous opportunity. I really applaud the initiative,' said Charles Fernandez, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister for Tourism and Economic Development. 'It is very important for tourism but even more, it is important for us as a people.'
The implementation of Green Fins in Antigua and Barbuda was made possible through a partnership with the ethical cosmetic company Caudalie, which has recently released a range of reef-safe sunscreens free of Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, chemicals found in many products which are known to have a harmful effect on coral.
JJ Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: 'We’re delighted to have received the funding from Caudalie that now allows us to implement Green Fins in Antigua and Barbuda and ensure the sustainability of both the programme and the marine tourism industry. Tourism has been growing steadily for several years and the government has shown a strong desire to pro-actively protect the country’s coral reefs and marine life through the implementation of Green Fins’ best practices and standards. This funding that now makes expansion into Antigua and Barbuda possible will not only significantly improve the diving and snorkelling industry’s conservation impact in the region but is also a huge step in the global expansion of the Green Fins network.'