A new digital platform to help dive professionals protect fragile coral reefs has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Con X Tech Prize, an award that provides seed funding to innovative conservation projects.
The Green Fins Global Hub by The Reef-World Foundation, which is being developed in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was shortlisted for what organizers called its potentially transformative approach to conserve biodiversity and ending human-induced species extinctions.
Once up and running, the hub aims to provide more than 30,000 dive and snorkel operators across 100 countries with practical information on how to reduce the impact that tourism has on coral reefs. Among other things, it will showcase low-cost alternatives to harmful practices, like anchoring and fish feeding, while helping operators limit chemical pollution.
“UNEP is proud to support the work of the Reef-World Foundation and Green Fins to promote sustainable tourism practices around the world,” said UNEP marine ecosystems expert Gabriel Grimsditch. “As tourism businesses recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that they do so in an environmentally sustainable manner that does not harm the ecosystems that their businesses depend on.”
Found in over 100 countries and territories globally, coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life—up to 1 million species. They also provide at least 500 million people with jobs and food while protecting coastlines from storms and flooding. However, the recently released fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook says coral reefs are at risk of extinction due to human-related pressures, including climate change.
Reef-World is one of 20 finalists for the Con X Prize and was shortlisted from 167 submissions from around the world. Each of the shortlisted teams received USD 3,500 to turn their idea into a prototype. In October, one project will be awarded the USD 20,000 grand prize.
James Greenhalgh, Digital Strategy Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “There is no other product like the Global Hub on the market and our market research shows strong industry demand for a service providing this type of solution. The hub will enable operators to train and empower their staff to adopt better environmental behaviours and collaborate with other businesses. We’re excited about the project’s potential to benefit reefs globally.”
Reef-World has already secured funding for this project from UNEP, The Matthew Good Foundation and G-Research. It is continuing to fundraise to cover the remaining development costs.
Tom Quigley, Community Manager at Conservation X Labs, said: “The Con X Tech Prize is meant for opportunities just like this – where some funding and support through a prototyping sprint can help a product like Green Fins make a transformative leap in the scale of their impact. We’re excited to see what Reef-World builds over the prototyping period.”
The hub lends itself to the ongoing calls for global conservation to protect coral reefs. In May, the International Coral Reef Initiative, a long-standing partner of UNEP, adopted recommendations from the Convention on Biological Diversity Post 2020 Framework to safeguard the future of coral reefs. Meanwhile, the Glowing Gone Campaign is raising awareness about the plight of coral reefs by enlisting the support of companies, like Adobe, and several celebrities, including Jane Goodall.