25 January 2006

Hawaii: Dive and Snorkel Operators join to form Reef Fund

Dive and snorkel operators on Hawaii's Big Island and Maui have joined local conservation organizations to raise money for marine conservation.

Through an innovative new program called the Reef Fund, dive and snorkel operators solicit voluntary donations from their clients to fund high priority marine protection programs...

Conservation efforts include the repair and installation of mooring buoys, the protection of nesting and resting beaches for rare and endangered sea turtles and monk seals, and the establishment of local education and outreach programs to protect marine resources.

According to Ed Robinson, a founding member of the Maui Reef Fund and president of Ed Robinson Adventures, "the industry is leading this effort because, as commercial operators, we feel that we hold the ultimate responsibility in conserving the reef resources we utilize, and the Maui Reef Fund is a positive step in this direction."

According to Kim Hum, Acting Marine Director for The Nature Conservancy's Hawaii Program, similar programs in other parts of the world have demonstrated that most ocean users, particularly divers and snorkelers, are willing to help fund programs that protect the marine environment.

A survey done by the Conservancy and the State Division of Aquatic Resources in 2003 indicated that 80% of those surveyed were willing to pay per snorkel/dive day for marine resource protection programs if the funds went to a private institution or non-profit and were not managed by a government agency. "With more than 1 million annual visitors to Molokini alone, the potential for this program is astounding," says Hum.

While the majority of other fee-based marine protection funds around the world are mandated by the local or national governments, Hawaii's is voluntary. On Maui, the Reef Fund is coordinated by the local non-profit organization, Hawaii Wildlife Fund. On the Big Island, the fund is managed by the Waimea-based non-profit, Malama Kai.

Donations collected by marine recreation operators are pooled into a collective fund on each island, and managed by the non-profit which is advised by a committee of operators, conservationists, scientists, and other stakeholders. The advisory committees decide how the funds will be spent on their islands.

On Maui, the Reef Fund has already begun to collect donations and the Council has taken action to assist in the protection of coral reefs through a massive mooring pin repair effort. According to boat captain, Michael Jones, who is involved in the project, "anytime a boat drops an anchor, it creates a circle of death...the anchor and anchor chain can kill all the coral within its reach. The most damaging thing an ocean user can do is drop an anchor. Anything we can do to prevent a boat from dropping anchors is a great benefit for the environment."

For more information on the Reef Fund visit: Hawaii Dive and Snorkel Operators Get Involved

Source: www.divenews.com


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