Bocas News

Greening the Dive Business

Greening the Dive Business

November 21, 2016

We will be following Ginette through the ups and downs of her groundbreaking journey to improve the way her business deals with the environment.”
This blue world is changing. In the last century the global sea level has risen almost 20 centimetres, we have lost half of our wildlife in the past four decades, and this year, our oceans are facing one of the worst coral bleaching events in history. Our marine ecosystem is delicately balancing on an uncertain edge, and there is no group better placed for attempting to rescue it than the dive industry. Heading this industry are the myriad dive centres that stand on the beaches of far-flung islands, and dive-tourism hotspots – these are the ones who can help kick-start change.

In this first of a three-part series to be released over the next six months, we introduce Ginette Bariteau, a dive centre owner in Panama, who we will be following through the ups and downs of her groundbreaking journey to improve the way her business deals with the environment. Situated in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Ginette’s dive centre is located in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Seeing the diving industry as the frontline for protecting the marine environment, and how the industry directly relies on the health of the marine environment, she is looking to inspire change within her local community as to how they think and act towards the environment.

After stumbling upon the guidance provided by the Green Fins initiative – aimed at building environmental best practice into dive and snorkel operations – Ginette decided to plunge in feet first using the e-Handbook for Dive and Snorkel Centres to do a review on the way she does business, setting her beliefs in a project that will hopefully help improve her customers’ diving experiences, alongside boosting the resident ecosystem.

Two years ago, instead of embarking on a regular life of retirement, Ginette and her husband Michel decided to take on the long-hours, low-pay work that is running a dive centre. To reflect their passion for the marine environment, they changed the dive centre’s name from Scuba 6 to Scuba 6 Eco Diving.

Initially getting caught up with the normal administrative duties associated with running a dive centre, she decided to set her priorities on getting out there and conducting regular surveys to monitor the local marine life – even by supporting three Marine Biologists from Smithsonian Tropical Research Center, Panama City to to come to the area and give a talk about and guide a dive to observe coral (unfortunately, out of the six dive centres of Bocas del Toro only one attended the presentations and none participated in the night dives).

Now, by printing and laminating Green Fins materials, such as the Green Fins Code of Conduct, and including the Code in her pre-dive briefings, Ginette is taking the time to explain to her customers about marine-related issues and the threats associated with climate change. Along with her glowing Trip Advisor reviews and their environmental credentials, the dive centre sees high numbers of repeat customers, and local businesses are recommending them based on the strong reputation they are building through word of mouth. What started as a means to educate people about the marine environment has metamorphosed into a valuable marketing tool.

Currently, Ginette doesn’t believe that divers will pay more for an environmentally sound product, and she doesn’t think they seek it out when making their bookings. But she strongly believes that by providing sustainable packages, and giving that extra value through the environmental talks she gives, people go away feeling like they have received a high value experience at no extra cost.

Ginette first heard about Green Fins through the Coral List, a forum for Internet discussions and announcements relating to coral reef ecosystem research, conservation, and education. She immediately found the educational materials, available for free download from the website, interesting and clear. Digging deeper, she became interested in the assessment process used through the Green Fins approach to measure businesses’ compliance to best practice. You don’t just get to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk – and you get assessed on it.