26 Sep 2016 Story Ecosystems

One Woman’s Quest to Green the Dive Business

Situated in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Ginette Bariteau’s Scuba 6 Eco dive centre is located in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Considering that the health of the marine environment is crucial for the diving business, Bariteau, an entrepreneur , is looking to inspire change within her local community so that everyone becomes stewards for and of the environment.

Two years ago, instead of enjoying a peaceful retirement life, Bariteau and her husband Michel decided to embrace their passion for the marine environment and embarked on running the Scuba 6 Eco Diving centre.

As she embarked on her new adventure, she undertook regular surveys to monitor local marine life. She even brought three marine biologists from Smithsonian Tropical Research Center, Panama City to raise awareness on how to safeguard marine life and coral reefs while diving.

Her quest to care for marine life and ecology soon brought her in contact with the UN Environment’s Green Fins initiative and its Green Fins Toolbox which provides guidance for building best practices into dive and snorkel businesses.  

Plunging in feet first, Bariteau began using the Green Fins e-Handbook for Dive and Snorkel Centres to review the way she was running her business, aiming to improve her customers’ diving experiences while boosting the resident ecosystem.

Using printed and laminated copies of Green Fins material, such as the Green Fins Code of Conduct, for her pre-dive briefings, Bariteau explains to her customers the importance of preserving   marine life and the threats associated with climate change. Along with her glowing Trip Advisor reviews and its environmental credentials, the dive centre sees high numbers of repeat customers and local businesses are recommending it. This word of mouth is the centre’s best marketing campaign. What started as a means to educate people about the marine environment has transformed into a valuable marketing tool.

Bariteau believes that by providing sustainable packages and adding extra value through her environmental talks, her dive centre allows customers to get high value experience at no extra cost.

She first heard about Green Fins through the Coral List, an online forum on coral reef ecosystem research, conservation and education. Interested immediately in the educational materials, available for free download from the Green Fins website, she familiarized herself with the Green Fins approach and ensured that her business complied with best practices.

She was also drawn by the fact that Green Fins is a UN Environment initiative - run by a small United Kingdom charity, ‘The Reef-World Foundation,’  and adopted as a national programme in eight countries and in some of the world’s most popular diving destinations, such as Thailand and Malaysia. Almost 500 dive centres have joined the programme and are working systematically to improve their environmental practices. And what’s more – it is free!

Bariteau immediately wanted to become part of this international network, to tap into this group of united voices and to contribute to it. By using Green Fins methodology she hopes to inspire people in her community and bring about change.

The Green Fins Dive and Snorkel Centre Handbook provided her with a step-by-step guide to implement the Code of Conduct at her dive centre. It also provided links to posters, guidelines and other resources to help her. . She found that the posters had a real impact on changing people’s attitudes, helping them embrace sound environmental practices. “Just a bit of background information made people more willing to accept and abide by the rules. Their behavior started to change,” says Bariteau. She was hooked.

It inspired her to continue to use Green Fins to bring about change. 

To learn about Green Fins, please go to: greenfins.net

For further information please contact: Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Tel: + (66 2) 2882127; Mobile: +(66 8) 17001376, Email: [email protected]

About Greenfins and Greenfins Toolbox: 

Originally established in Thailand in 2014, Green Fins is now active in six countries in Asia and is being expanded to other regions. Green Fins is currently working with over 400 diving and snorkeling operators in six Asian countries who are continuously improving their business practices to reduce negative environmental impacts.

The Green Fins Toolbox, set of how-to guidance material for the recreational diving industry aimed at protecting fragile marine biodiversity, was developed through a public-private partnership initiative working with diving and snorkeling businesses, communities and governments in Southeast and South Asia.