Amidst concerns over the environmental impact of an increased use of chemical cleaning agents, Reef-World has designed new Green Fins cleaning guidelines to help dive and snorkel operators navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the diving and snorkeling industry. One of many changes now being considered across the sector is how operators should disinfect surfaces and equipment to protect against the virus — and, what’s more, how they can do this in an environmentally friendly way. That’s why The Reef-World Foundation — the international coordinator of the UN Environment Program’s Green Fins initiative — has launched new guidelines addressing responsible management and disposal of chemical cleaning agents.
Proper disinfectant usage
Chemical cleaning agents are widely regarded as the safest option when disinfecting equipment, surfaces and laundry in today’s climate. However, many cleaning and cosmetic products contain substances that are hazardous to the marine environment. As such, Reef-World has launched the Green Fins Guidelines for Environmental Best Practice for Chemical Cleaning Agents to help dive and snorkel operators deal with chemical cleaning agents in an environmentally friendly way. These recommendations consolidate known best practices when it comes to management and disposal of hazardous waste and chemicals for minimal environmental impact.
The Green Fins guidance — which should be used in addition to, not instead of, health and safety recommendations from DAN and the WHO on preventing viral spread — explains how to deal with any hazardous waste that may pose a significant threat to the marine environment.
“We appreciate that this is an incredibly tough time for the diving and snorkeling industry,” says Chloe Harvey, Reef-World’s Director. “The coronavirus pandemic has many negative consequences for many people but there are silver linings including the potential to ‘redefine’ the tourism industry and use this downtime to put better environmental policies in place, especially since more and more tourists are demanding sustainable practices from their providers.
“As a collaborative network we need to work together to weather this storm as best we can. That’s why Reef-World has developed new resources — and waived the usual fee for its popular Operational Handbook — to help the industry keep an environmental strategy high on their agenda, even during this difficult time. While we appreciate this is a stressful time for the travel industry, putting better environmental measures in place now will help businesses come out stronger— and with a more sustainable business — when travel restrictions are lifted.
“While we are confident that the scuba diving industry will bounce back, there is likely to be a ‘new normal’ and level of expectation in sanitization not previously witnessed by the sector. For this reason, we have developed new guidelines to help dive and snorkel operators manage and dispose of chemical cleaning agents in an environmentally friendly way. These new guidelines are available for free to Green Fins members and non-members alike.
“We realize it might not be possible for everyone, but we’d like to thank everyone who is continuing to find ways of reducing their impact on the coral reefs and related ecosystems: together, we can make both the environment and our tourism businesses more resilient.”
The guidelines are available free of charge for Green Fins members and non-members alike. They can be downloaded here.
In addition to the newly launched Chemical Cleaning Agent guidelines, Reef-World is waiving its usual $25 (£20) fee for operators to access the Green Fins Operational Handbook. Instead, to help the charity continue its ongoing work to protect coral reefs, operators who access the handbook are asked to contribute what they can.
Dive professionals are also being reminded they can continue their environmental learning from home by taking the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course.
By Melissa Hobson, The Reef-World Foundation