Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Mangroves for Fiji!

Well here it is - and yes, we’re mighty proud of ourselves!
Might we even be the first to do this?

This is the result of a dinner conversation with a fellow ecotourism operator.
We were musing about the necessity and the advantages of offsetting one’s carbon footprint and how it would be nice if we could do it locally instead of financing the international carbon trade. Having subsequently inquired, I discovered that nobody in Fiji is currently offering any such opportunity and having explored the international options, I was frankly dismayed by their apparent pervasive lack of transparency and by the fact that they came across as being principally geared towards making money rather than being aimed at propagating genuine climate change mitigation.

Despite of our best efforts, we at BAD emit uncomfortably high amount of greenhouse gases.
This is principally due to our need for operating our vessels and vehicle, and to a high power bill stemming from our compressor and various air conditioning units we need to run to protect our electrical hardware. Inevitable as they are, those emissions remain highly disturbing, and it would have been nice to find an elegant way of becoming carbon neutral, the more as we deeply care for the environment and market ourselves as an ecotourism operator.

But Carbon Offsetting is controversial as it always carries the stigma of being a convenient escape mechanism for not assuming responsibility.
Critics claim that instead of being forced to tackle the root of the problem and reduce their carbon footprint, culprits are instead being encouraged to take the easy way out by paying somebody else for cleaning up the ecological mess they have caused.
With that in mind, we set out to become an integral part of a domestic solution.

Our choice quickly fell onto Mangrove Restoration.
As a friend writes, these are more than just muddy plants, they are natures multi million year perfect solution to coastal erosion, fish nurseries, carbon sequestration, and more.
Mangroves are a largely overlooked excellent carbon sink that sequester multiple amounts of carbon when compared to tropical and temperate forests. They are also vital habitats that not only protect the coasts against tsunamis, hurricanes and Sea level change, but directly benefit the adjacent reefs by exporting life-building carbon and above all, by being the nursery areas of countless marine organisms from crustaceans all the way to Sharks.

In that sense, restoring mangroves complements ideally what we have been doing all along.
We believe that any dive shop needs to assume the stewardship of the reefs it dives and from where it obtains its sustenance, and Mangals are essential extensions of those habitats. The project also dovetails beautifully with our ongoing conservation projects that stipulate that in order to attain sustainable results, one has to involve and compensate the stakeholders.

The rest has been, well, a process.
We are obviously not climate change and carbon offsetting specialists and had to first obtain the required know how. Following that, we had to explore practical ways of attaining tangible results, this against the backdrop of the reservations of the public against what is still regarded as being worthless and unattractive, and against the interests of coastal developers that continue to destroy Mangroves for tourism developments.

We were lucky insofar as 2010 has been declared the International Year of Biodiversity.
This has prompted the IUCN to roll out MESCAL and the Department of Forestry, to decide to plant 1 million trees, among which mangroves, to commemorate the event. They have been invaluable supporters, as have been our traditional partners in the Fisheries Department and least but not least, our friend Helen of Marine Ecology Consulting who has already been quietly restoring Mangroves for a very long time indeed and was willing to share her unequaled know how in the matter, as have several friends at the USP.

As of today, we have run a successful pilot project and sponsored several more, and are rapidly approaching the status of being the first completely Carbon Neutral Business under this project.
We will however not stop there: once we have managed to completely offset our direct emissions, we will then offset the carbon emissions our customers have incurred when traveling to Fiji, making this an ongoing undertaking.

Having done the legwork, we have decided that we might as well share the project with equally intentioned industry peers but also, with other eco-friendly businesses in Fiji.
Named Mangroves for Fiji, this is now a country-wide undertaking aimed at elevating Fiji’s diving industry to the next level. Like last year’s Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project, it is open to anybody and our role in it will be simply to act as facilitators, with no gain whatsoever to us apart from having done the right thing.
Having assembled a small project team, they stand by to assist.

Please take the time to explore the website.
Kudos to web designer Shivam of Niuwave Media and to our charming administrator Lexi for having created a first-class product! As I said, we’re not specialists – but to the best of our knowledge, the technical information contained therein is factually correct. Does it strike you as being surprisingly simple? Actually, if one boils it down to the essentials, it is!
Also, planting Mangroves is really not rocket science – anybody can do it!

Comments, suggestions and amendments?
Always welcome, the latter best directly to the project team – please bear with us, this is still somewhat progress in action!
Thank you!

To our Fijian readers.
If you are a dive shop or a smaller eco-friendly business, please feel free to contact us and join! If you are eager to do something for Fiji and earn some money in the process by becoming a mangrove planter, please read the relevant pages and get in contact! And please, tell your friends and community!
Let’s all work together towards making this a better Fiji!

Anybody want to replicate this elsewhere?
Please contact us and we will be happy to share our website for free. We’ve also secured the URLs of several Pacific locations and will be happy to pass them on to you – maybe we can all together establish a Mangroves for Oceania? Could this even eventually become a template for the dive industry in all tropical and subtropical locations? This can get as big as we want!
Time, as always, will tell.

Enjoy Mangroves for Fiji.


BeachNomad said...

Great work Mike. Love to see that you think outside of the direct conservation (shark reef marine reserve). By planting mangroves you are protecting and preserving an entire ecosystem, one that will also benefit your business directly by supplying nursery habitat for your animals as well as their prey. The whole carbon neutral thing is also fantastic!


Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Leadership, leadership, leadership.

Cannot say it enough times about you and your org Mike. Proving once again that industry members can, if they try, chew gum and walk at the same time.

In your case whistle a tune, juggle a bowling ball, a working chainsaw, and a flaming knife as well.

Kudos, most excellent effort.

DaShark said...

Thank you!

Jon: read the 2nd paper on the "Sequestration" page: sea grasses and marshes that have been most affected by the spill are equally good carbon sinks. Maybe this could be a template for convincing businesses to finance restoration in the Gulf against getting major brownie points for having gone green?
Eco is great business!

The Sharkman said...

The Big Boss at BAD does nothing but GOOD!!

Whenever conservation steps need to be taken, Da Shark is always there to propose, discuss, employ and achives the results. A true leader.


Robert said...

Great initiative Mike.
I hope that you have lots of enthusiastic groups and individuals join you.
There are many places that are killing their mangroves because they don't know the value of them, only the value of the new condos or golf courses.
The Mangroves For Fiji website is great too.Lots of educational material. I have learned a lot from it anyways.
We should all look in our own backyards and follow your lead.
Fiji & the sharks are lucky to have you and your team.

Aussie Sam said...

Well done mate. you deserve all the kudos for such a truly worthwhile project.