“No stepping on coral,” “No feeding fish,” Onna implements international environmental standards for diving

“No stepping on coral,” “No feeding fish,” Onna implements international environmental standards for diving

October 13, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Onna – Onna Village is working on implementing international environmental guidelines for diving from an organization called Green Fins in an effort to protect the coral reefs. According to the village, so far there are no examples of the guidelines being implemented at the local level. The village is working with the local diving association to provide diving shops with guidelines such as not feeding wildlife.
The Green Fins project was started in 2004 with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Their goal is to protect coral reefs while promoting the diving and snorkeling tourism industry. They promote guidelines such as not feeding fish, collecting wildlife, and wearing a lifejacket while snorkeling, and also certify dive shops that adhere to these guidelines.

The organization has certified around 600 diving shops from 11 member nations including the Philippines and Indonesia in southeast Asia, the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, and Maldives, Palau among others. Most of the initiatives are led by each country’s national governments. UNEP is hoping to use the undertaking in Onna as a starting point to implement Green Fins throughout Japan.

Onna Village declared themselves a “coral reef town” in July, 2018, and have been working on protection measures against things such as red-soil erosion. Green Fins were implemented as part of their ongoing efforts to protect the reefs. The town and organization are currently working on training “accessors” who will start educating and certifying dive shops starting next year. They are aiming to have all of the shops in the village educated and certified in the next two-to-three years.

The goal of the environmental protection measures is to add value to the town’s marine leisure industry. The village hopes to attract environmentally-conscious customers from Europe and North America, and are hoping to differentiate themselves from other regions in Japan that also offer diving.

A representative from the town indicates, “By establishing higher-priced tours, we can combine environmental protection and economic development.” Onna mayor Yoshimi Nagahama stressed, “It is necessary for us to implement these guidelines to protect the village’s diving spots. I would like for this to become common knowledge among store owners.”

Yasuo Uchihara, president of the Onna Diving Association, says, “We are going to hold seminars in hopes of getting buy-in from business owners. We want to work together with the town to leave behind a beautiful ocean for the future.”’

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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