West Hawaii Voluntary Standards for Marine Tourism - Background
After a year and a half of hard work, four voluntary standards for marine tourism in West Hawaii were successfully balloted in summer of 2009. Kona Field Representative Kara Osada-D'Avella worked with many local stakeholders in West Hawaii to facilitate a community-driven process to develop standards for SCUBA Diving and Snorkeling, General Boating, Wildlife Interactions, and Shoreline Activities. Individuals in the standards task force included representatives from commercial marine recreation operators; NGOs; county, state, and federal agencies; purchasers; and other local community members. Through many meetings and discussions, both in person and online, the drafts of the standards were developed, reviewed, and revised in an iterative consensus-building process. Read the standards »
Development of the standards was only the beginning, and the next phase of implementation and field-testing is now underway. Companies are still in the process of adopting the standards, and will also assist CORAL in evaluating them for their overall effectiveness, attainability, and affordability. This multifaceted effort is being accomplished through passenger exit surveys, self-assessments, peer reviews, and third-party anonymous community reviews.
CORAL is actively assisting with standards implementation through the development and dissemination of educational tools and materials, along with specialized training in sustainable marine recreation to help companies communicate key messages to their clients and enforce the standards. Materials such as educational bag tags, interpretive flip charts, and an environmental pledge were developed collaboratively by taskforce members and several individuals forming the newly-established CORAL Reef Leadership Network.
The staff of Dolphin Journeys displays the laminated environmental pledge that they adapted for their company and posted onboard their vessel.
Photo courtesy Nancy Sweatt
The environmental pledge, which describes key behaviors for snorkelers and divers as outlined by the West Hawaii standards development taskforce, is now available for adaptation and implementation by commercial tour operators. The pledge provides operators with a mechanism to convey best practices to their clients, so that both parties can hold each other accountable for demonstrating and following these practices. Companies are utilizing the pledge in different ways, such as posting it as a laminated poster onboard their vessels, passing it around as a laminated page to be initialed by clients, or integrating it into their own liability waivers and charter manifests. These strategies eliminate paper waste, and ensure that all clients have reviewed the terms of the pledge before participating in the marine tourism activity.
Another particularly notable project in support of the standards was the development of marine tourism bag tags. The West Hawaii community adapted and improved upon a project that was piloted on Maui, where a CORAL microgrant had assisted in the creation of a credit-card sized tag with reef etiquette messages on one side and a colorful illustration on the other; these tags were designed to be affixed to snorkel gear rental bags. The West Hawaii community devised a new approach using photographs of marine life donated by members of the West Hawaii standards taskforce. Each tag carries a specific educational message about marine mammals, manta rays, or coral reefs. The beautiful images and ‘West Hawaii 2009' noted on the tags have made them into a new collectible item for visitors and residents alike. They are now being used in various creative ways, such as water bottle identifiers on charters, buoyancy compensation tags, and luggage tags.
*Photos by Liz Foote