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Green Bubbles RISE for sustainable diving

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GreenBubbles (Green Bubbles RISE for sustainable diving)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Recreational SCUBA diving has become a mass leisure activity engaging millions of divers worldwide. The diving industry generates large direct and indirect revenues for local communities and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Other benefits linked to diving include the promotion of environmental and ocean stewardship, contribution to scientific research, fostering social inclusion and personal development. Yet, diving has also negative impacts, due to damage or disturbance of habitats and organisms and to conflicts with local communities for the use of the same resources, equity issues, or cultural clashes. These aspects clearly relate to the three pillars of sustainability, covering environmental, economic and social dimensions and can only be addressed by a systemic approach.
The central objective of Green Bubbles is to maximise the benefits associated with diving, whilst minimising its negative impacts, thus achieving the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the system. This is being done by: i) Carefully assessing and modelling the system itself (overall objective for the period, identified as Phase I); ii) Developing innovative products based on the issues and needs highlighted by assessment and modelling; iii) Promoting the uptake of such products by the system designing tailored business models and marketing plans. Direct engagement with selected stakeholders (divers, professionals, operators, certification agencies - CAs, MPAs, NGOs) ensures relevant feedback throughout the project’s lifetime, as well as effective uptake of results at the end of the project. The systemic approach of Green Bubbles aims to provide information so far hardly or not available, work as a blueprint well beyond case studies to support conservationists and administrators, design management measures taking into account the operators’ needs, profit operators helping them to appropriately cater to clients in a quickly evolving and increasingly difficult market.
Green Bubbles is built around five Research & Innovation work packages (WPs) and lasts from January 2015 until December 2018. The first work package (WP1) sets the baseline to inform the initial work under the subsequent work packages. These focus on developing specific products starting from complementary baseline analysis (Phase I, parallel to the duration of WP1). First steps in the development of specific products being taken since mid-2016.

WP1 (Description and dialogue with the system) has been fully dedicated to the baseline assessment of the diving system along three main lines: the human dimension of diving (divers, professionals, society); environment at the two case-study locations (Portofino MPA in Italy and Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in Mozambique); assessment of offer and marketing approaches for the global diving industry (strategy and marketing). The research under WP1 has seen the collaboration of all GB member institutions (Beneficiaries and Partners) and was carried out thanks to the support of a large network of divers, diving centers, NGOs, authorities and professionals. Additional baseline assessment work in the other four Research & Innovation WPs has also been completed. Business structure and marketing approaches at case study locations have been defined in WP2 (Enhancing the traditional offer by the diving industry). This information will be combined with inputs from WP1 to provide advice and revise business and marketing plans. The planned analysis of school curricula and of the training material for basic dive courses of three CAs has been completed in WP3 (Embedding diving and Ocean Literacy into school curricula). Work has begun to merge these two lines, and collaboration with schools as well as with dive professionals is proving helpful for evaluating first trials of structured diving experiences in schools. A Virtual Reality Dive Experience (Dive Project) has also been created and presented at relevant fairs/expos, being tested by hundreds of kids and adults. WP4 (Effective and sustainable Citizen Science - CS - engaging volunteer divers) has delivered a thorough analysis of about 160 existing CS initiatives focused on the marine environment and involving or potentially involving divers. This analysis, together with completed data mining for physiological and associated information from over 50.000 dives carried out by volunteers, is informing the design of devices and tools that will support divers’ involvement in medical as well as environmental research, and is being used to develop predictive models that apply to a segmented population of divers, thereby increasing their safety. The design of several key innovative devices that will contribute to diving safety and quality labelling was initiated: A monitoring system to prevent drowning, another monitoring system to allow diabetic divers to practice scuba safely, an intelligent scooter for underwater mapping and physiological monitoring, a computer-assisted perfect dive trim portal. WP5 (Quality labelling for dive operators and MPAs) has run along parallel lines, investigating the concept of resources and sustainability with dive operators at the two case study locations, as well as the concept of risk in the broader practice of scuba diving (hence, not only while underwater). The latter has concurred to improve the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) protocols in diving thanks to direct interaction with divers and professionals, as well as thanks to an EU-wide survey on the safety perceptions of divers (over 4.000 respondents). Major gaps between the safety concerns of service providers and divers were identified.
The successful implementation of Phase 1 has led to an unprecedented baseline assessment of different components of the diving system, many of them tackled from different angles. Indeed, the vast majority of research carried out on scuba diving so far has focused on divers alone, and mostly in coral reef areas. Green Bubbles has significantly expanded the scope of research including professionals, territorial managers and certifying agencies not only in coral reef areas but also in temperate marine regions, and has spanned the whole range of themes relevant to these groups and regions - from the human dimension of diving to pedagogy, from marketing to sustainability sciences, from IT and engineering to physiology. This thorough analysis of the system is a major achievement able to inform not only the subsequent phases of the project, but also management/decision making, other research activities and the industry itself.
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Engaging with divers - Pics from the Master Trim Competition Finals
Engaging with stakeholders - Pics from the Green Bubbles Open Workshop (Sept 2016)
Engaging with divers - Images used as a call-to-action for the citizen science project iNaturalist
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