Sustainable Dive Tourism in Curacao
Sustainable Dive Tourism in Curacao
Sustainable Dive Tourism is important because our environment is constantly being attacked by numerous factors that include overfishing, coral reef degradation, air and water pollution, single use plastics and much more on a daily basis. Largely, we are facing these impending natural disasters because of apathy and an unwillingness to change our daily routines or “rock the boat” to implement environmental conservation policies that force societal responsibility. At Ocean Encounters this is our private sector point of view. We believe it is our societal responsibility to create eco-policies internally that provide immediate solutions and a lasting effect externally for our business, our employees, our divers, our coral reefs and most importantly for the future of our beautiful Dutch Caribbean Island. This is why we are completely committed to Sustainable Dive Tourism in Curacao.
What is Sustainable Dive Tourism?
By definition, “Sustainable Tourism refers to sustainable practices in and by the tourism industry. It is an aspiration to acknowledge all impacts of tourism, both positive and negative. It aims to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones.”
By extension, “Sustainable Dive Tourism” then refers specifically to the dive tourism industry where we acknowledge all the impacts of dive tourism, both negative and positive. It is Ocean Encounters’ aim, including our dive industry partners, to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones.
Negative impacts to our dive destination include: Economic leakage, damage to the natural environment, and coastal development to name a few.
Positive impacts to our dive destination include: Job creation, cultural heritage preservation, wildlife preservation, landscape restoration, and more.
Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Additionally, they say that sustainable tourism “refers to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability” (UNEP & UNWTO, 2005: 11-12. Making Tourism More Sustainable – A Guide for Policy Makers).
Why Commit to Sustainable Dive Tourism?
With each passing year, we see new new environmental challenges. Here are 5 examples of the biggest threats to our ocean.
- Water pollution coming from improper sewage treatment resulting in contaminated waters that harm our marine life.
- Plastic pollution coming from land-based or marine sources. Land-based sources include mismanaged waste and inadequately disposed plastic waste. Marine sources include fishing fleets that leave fishing nets, lines and ropes behind.
- Water temperatures getting higher. Marine animals are twice as likely to lose their habitats due to climate change as they have fewer ways to find refuge from the heat and are less capable of adapting to a warming planet.
- Reef damage due to toxic sunscreens. A 2015 study found that just a small amount of sunscreen containing oxybenzone builds up in coral tissues, affecting especially juvenile coral and causing DNA damage, abnormal growth and increased susceptibility to bleaching (causing eventual death).
- Ocean acidification due to excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some organisms will survive or even thrive under more acidic conditions, but others will struggle to adapt and may even go extinct. Ocean acidification affects fishing, threatens food security, as well as tourism and other sea-related economies.
Economic Value of the Diving Industry in Curacao*
Another important reason to commit to Sustainable Dive Tourism in Curacao for the dive industry and other marine recreation providers is income possibilities. There are around 6 million active scuba divers and 20 million active snorkelers worldwide. According to the 2017 Economic Impact study of the Curacao Diving Industry, conducted by the Curacao Hospitality and Tourism Association (CHATA), concluded that the diving industry contributes approximately $41,319,914 annually to the local economy.
Furthermore coral reefs, such as the 104 square kilometers of extremely bio-diverse systems that surround Curacao, provide $375 billion USD globally in goods and services including $130 billion USD in coastal tourism. Yet, the estimated total investment in coral reef management and conservation is approx. $350 million USD worldwide.
That means that for every $100 US dollars that the tourism industry generates in coastal areas, only about $0.27 US dollars goes toward marine protected areas management and conservation.
*Source: Curacao – A Dutch Caribbean Coral Island, by Dr. Mark Vermeij (Carmabi) and Bryan Horne (Dive Curacao)
Sustainable Dive Tourism in Action
If we are to be true leaders in Curacao in the fight to protect what we love then together we must understand that our dive sites and shallow water reef systems that ultimately protect our shorelines are under immense environmental pressures. We also must realize that conservation, and by definition Sustainable Dive Tourism, cannot be done in isolation. It takes the collaborative efforts of everyone to really make change.
Green Fins in Curacao
As a leading sustainable dive tourism operator in Curaçao, Ocean Encounters has become a Green Fins Digital Member to reinforce the absolute need to create change in order to provide future generations with an opportunity for a healthy and sustainable environment, both above and below the waterline.
There are different ways one can lessen the impacts on the environment. Here are some simple steps you can take at home. Be conscious of the waste you produce and minimize it. Use less energy by turning off electronics when you are not using them, use energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. Refuse single use plastic in your day to day life.
At Ocean Encounters, we believe in educating, setting an example and making a change.
It is for this reason, that we have committed to making a strong eco-friendly presence with our green initiatives and have taken these to another level by becoming a Green Fins member.
This is our commitment to sustainable tourism in Curacao.
“Marine tourism plays an important role in Curaçao’s economy and as the industry grows, it is critical to establish practical approaches to protect the marine environment. By adopting Green Fins, dive operators are taking vital steps in ensuring Curaçao’s dive market is sustainably managed to increase corals and marine life’s resilience to wider global threats and protect the valuable marine ecosystems for future generations.” said JJ Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation
This process is seen as the first step to implement Green Fins in Curaçao on a national level with a government-led team to enable dive operators to become Green Fins Certified Members where they will receive annual in-person assessment, on-site training for staff and consultation to help the business develop and implement best practice to improve the sustainability of the marine tourism industry.
“At Ocean Encounters, we believe it is our societal responsibility to create eco-policies internally that provide immediate solutions and a lasting effect externally for our business, our employees, our divers, our coral reefs and most importantly for the future of our beautiful Dutch Caribbean Island. This is why we are completely committed to Sustainable Dive Tourism in Curacao.”
At Ocean Encounters, we are actively protecting our local waters, marine life, and community.
Ocean Encounters registered as a Green Fins Digital Member, successfully completed our online self-evaluation and developed our own action plan. As mentioned above, Ocean Encounters is committed to taking steps to reduce our environmental footprint whilst carrying out daily activities.
At Ocean Encounters in collaboration with our Dive Resort partners we use solar panels, LED lighting and water timers to reduce our daily energy consumption and water usage. Additionally, we use only eco-friendly or biodegradable disinfecting soap in our rinsing tanks, we discourage single-use plastic and we encourage recycling.
To this day, the war against Lionfish rages on and continues to challenge hunters who give up their free time to help prevent more damage to the reefs and in turn, the local economy. The Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience includes a short introduction presentation about the Lionfish invasion and safe shooting lessons. Following the practical session, we will board one of four custom dive boats and head out for a dive to hunt lionfish!
Local human capital affects economic growth and can help to develop an economy by expanding the knowledge and skills of its people. At Ocean Encounters we support “local” human capital and are proud to enable “our local staff” to become valued Dive Team members that includes dive masters, dive instructors, boat captains and administrative personnel.
Reef Renewal Curacao is an initiative of Ocean Encounters and supported by our community, sponsors, volunteers and Reef Renewal International. The dedicated coral restoration team also works closely with Reef Renewal Bonaire, SECORE International and the Carmabi Foundation to constantly improve restoration techniques, innovations and share the data collection to benefit the shallow water reef systems of Curaçao and the greater Caribbean region.
Reef Renewal Curacao envisions a future where the shallow water reef systems around Curaçao are no longer threatened and ocean stewardship and protecting our coral reefs is at the heart of Curaçao’s culture. So, when you are in Curacao, Dive for a Purpose with Reef Renewal Curacao and help make difference by supporting this valuable coral restoration initiative.
All aspects of our beautiful Dutch Caribbean island depend on coral reefs, from coastal protection and food on our table to revenue from tourism. The existence of coral reefs is intertwined into much of the infrastructure and revenue on the island. However, these coral reefs are threatened by human impacts and reef restoration is only part of the solution.
For Reef Renewal Curacao to effectively build back and restore the shallow water reef systems of Curaçao, we need the support of a variety of private stakeholders and the support of the Curaçao government.
We need to take the importance of coral reefs out of the water and make it something that is valued by the whole community of Curaçao.
Rated #1 – The Best Reef-Safe, Eco-Friendly Sunscreens
“This brand earned the seal of approval from Downs and Haereticus. In short, you can feel good about dousing yourself with the water-resistant (up to 80 minutes), biodegradable, paraben-free broad spectrum sunblock before diving into the deep end of the ocean. The active ingredient is non-nano titanium dioxide while green tea, tulsi leaf, seaweed, aloe, and coconut oil make the Sport line less harsh on skin. Bonus points for using 100-percent recycled or recyclable packaging.”
Visit our dive shop at LionsDive Beach Resort or Sunscape Curacao Resort and wave goodbye to sunscreens with harsh chemicals that pollute the ocean and beach. LEARN MORE about Stream2Sea Products today!
Sea Turtle Conservation Curacao is a non-profit foundation based in Curacao that protects sea turtles and marine wildlife by taking direct action. They focus on rescue, rehabilitation, and research activities as well as on raising environmental awareness.
At Ocean Encounters, we support Sea Turtle Conservation Curacao through direct sales of their merchandise and provide assistance for their direct actions.
To reject the use of single-use plastics, we sell reusable bamboo cutlery.
Unlike plastic or metal cutlery sets, bamboo utensils require absolutely no chemicals to make! They are 100% natural and completely non-toxic. Therefore they are safe for children and adults alike!
Additionally bamboo cutlery is extremely durable, but as with all products, there will eventually come a time to throw your cutlery set away. So, when it is time to throw away your bamboo cutlery set – not only can you recycle it but if you purchase sets sold at Ocean Encounters, they are organic which means that they are compostable as well!
By purchasing a 4Ocean Bracelet, a One Pound Promise is included to pull one pound of trash from the ocean, rivers, and coastlines. Every pound pulled helps fund a global ocean cleanup operation, it supports a growing movement to end the world’s reliance on single-use plastic, and advances a mission to end the ocean plastic crisis. 4Ocean Bracelets are available in our dive shops located at LionsDive Beach Resort and Sunscape Curacao Resort.
Adopt A Dive Site is a unique and powerful program to involve dive centers, resorts and leaders around the world in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of our favorite underwater playgrounds. It is an opportunity dive operators to take ownership of their dive sites.
At Ocean Encounters we have adopted our house reefs at LionsDive Beach Resort and Sunscape Curacao Resort. For more information how you can get involved, contact us.
LionsDive Beach Resort Curacao named as one of the Best Eco-Friendly Dive Resorts in the Caribbean
At LionsDive Beach Resort Curacao, an environmentally sustainable approach has been completely integrated into the daily resort operations and this is why Ocean Encounters is proud to be located, on site, at one of the best eco-friendly dive resorts in the Caribbean.
Dive in to learn more about the Eco-initiatives at LionsDive Beach Resort Curacao!
Eco-Conscious Facility AWARD
Stream2Sea named Ocean Encounters as an “Eco-Conscious Facility”. Stream2Sea recognized our commitment to the environment, providing environmentally-safe products and encouraging divers to actively work to have a positive impact on the marine environment.
PADI GREEN STAR AWARD
The PADI Green Star™ Dive Center Award is granted to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts that demonstrate a dedication to conservation across a wide range of business functions, including water conservation, energy use, environmentally friendly transportation practices, use of sustainable materials, conservation leadership and a donation to conservation through the PADI AWARE Foundation.
At Ocean Encounters, we are proud to identify our dive business with The Green Star Award because this recognition further underlines that we care about the environment and we are acting to protect it.