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Green Bubbles RISE for sustainable diving

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GreenBubbles (Green Bubbles RISE for sustainable diving)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

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 has been to maximise the benefits associated with diving, whilst minimising its negative impacts, thus achieving the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the system. The Green Bubbles project has progressed through three Phases:

- Phase 1. Carefully assessing and modelling the system itself.
- Phase 2. Developing innovative products based on the issues and needs highlighted by assessment and modelling.
- Phase 3. 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) has ensured relevant feedback throughout the project’s lifetime, as well as effective uptake of results at the end of the project.
Over the course of 4 years (2015 - 2018) Green Bubbles has:

- Compiled a thorough segmentation of the diving system at two case study locations (in Italy and Mozambique) and, for some components, well beyond these areas. This initial effort has generated an unprecedented amount of new knowledge about the different angles of recreational scuba diving.
- Co-created a number of programmes linking diving, Citizen Science, and Ocean Literacy at various levels and for different target audiences.
- Released a Virtual Reality gaming experience able to bring non-divers into an underwater environment, engaging them in discovery and conservation activities.
- Designed and implemented an innovative underwater 3D mapping approach, consisting of new devices and online tools. This approach will be amenable for use by researchers, managers of Marine Protected Areas, dive operators and citizen scientists, delivering a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits.
- Designed innovative devices to monitor environmental and physiological parameters, and linked these to an on-line tool dedicated to diving safety. The tool, available to all divers, allows them to upload their diving profile and to obtain a real time analysis of the associated risk. Besides providing a log book with personalised analysis of profiles, the tool is feeding research initiatives in the field of diving safety.
- Created a competitive challenge to promote diving safety. The event stems from the analysis of data and surveys evidencing how buoyancy and trim skills are key in the prevention of diving incidents.
- Designed a Quality Labelling System for the diving industry. The system leverages upon the best labelling approaches around, streamlines their application and works for the scuba industry, the local community and the environment.
- Organised/contributed to the organisation of many workshops and events to introduce its outcomes to the interested end-users and elicit feedback, such as a mid term and a final workshops, and a marketing and business modelling workshop.
- Engaged with segmented target audiences, through different channels and media, for a total reach of up to approximately 600K people through the direct e-channels of the project (website, social media) and 15-20K people in person (at fairs and events), without including those reached through third-parties (e.g. e-magazines and blogs posting about the project, personal social media usage by Green Bubbles researchers, reads of scientific papers, attendees at conferences etc).
Generated 16 peer-reviewed publications and given over 50 communications (oral communication or posters) in marine ecology and biology, conservation, physiology and medicine, IT, engineering, marketing, communication, business, socio-economic sciences, pedagogy etc.
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 had focused on divers alone, and mostly in coral reef areas. Green Bubbles has significantly expanded the scope of research including professionals, territorial managers, certifying agencies, local communities, schools 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.

Phase 2 of Green Bubbles' work has delivered the products summarised in the previous section (most of which have been implemented already before the project's end), while its Phase 3 has generated marketing and business programmes to support the uptake of products in the real life. Further to promote the development of its researchers (across sectors and disciplines) and reinforcing/establishing collaborations within and outside the Green Bubbles consortium, the project has contributed to the following EU priorities and policies:

- Blue Growth Strategy, by i) providing information about the diving system that was hardly or not available; ii) work as a blueprint well beyond case studies to support conservationists and administrators design management measures taking also operators' needs into account; iii) profit EU operators helping them to appropriately cater to clients in a quickly evolving and increasingly difficult market.
- EU Biodiversity Strategy Target 1, Target 2 and Target 6 and Marine Strategy Framework Directive, by improving the relationship between the different actors of the diving system (notably economic actors, territorial managers, academia) to ensure that formal or informal co-management approaches are embraced, and investing in Ocean Literacy and Citizen Science.
- Education, training, Life Long Learning, Ocean Literacy. All activities and products stemming from Green Bubbles have been accompanied or linked to training and education.
- EU strategy for Marine and Maritime Research, EU Green paper on CS. Indeed, Green Bubbles has not just proposed Citizen Science activities - first of all, it has addressed Citizen Science as a subject for research and has then built its programmes based on the newly acquired information. Moreover, it has led the transition from marine Citizen Science to marine Citizen Observatories.