“75% of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs are located around the equator, home to some of the world’s poorest people. At least 275 million of those people depend directly on coral reefs and fish and marine resources for food, security and income.” “Dive tourism is located on those same incredible bio-diverse coral reef systems.” ~ Judi Lowe
What is an accountant/lawyer doing in the dive industry? Working on a PhD. in dive tourism, of course. Judi Lowe’s research takes ground-breaking coastal management models to new depths by including artisanal fishers into the mix. Her work is especially significant at third world dive travel destinations where conflicts erupt between dive operators and local communities over limited yet essential resources. Judi makes it pretty clear that poverty and pristine reefs don’t mix, and marine tourism may hold a solution.
If the diving industry and other businesses that rely on the ocean are trying to turn to greener practices, looking at the natural environment is a good place to start, but a holistic sustainable plan will also take into account the human factor. More specifically, as Judi Lowe points out, the focus should be on indigenous local communities who have relied on the ocean for much longer than recreational scuba diving, has been around.
While the focus is on marine conservation, this is also an issue of marine tenure. In Judi’s words, “We want the coral reefs saved for their own benefit and for the benefit of those who live on them—to preserve that biodiversity, and to make sure that food security is available to those who most need it.”
Local Communities must be considered when trying to preserve the marine environment.
Judi believes that accounting for people whose livelihoods depend on traditional activities revolving around marine resources isn’t only the responsible thing to do, it will also result in greater benefits for the community and for the environment.
Integrated framework coastal management, which Judi has been working with, is one tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. This model takes into consideration the need to integrate locals into the administration and the use of these resources in a number of industries. Locals whose jobs are displaced by bans limiting over fishing or similar actions which might restrict access to food security are offered options, including supplemental payments and other employment opportunities within the businesses.
“Both the natural and human side can continue to co-exist sustainably”.
The goal of an integrated coastal management framework is not to give one party an advantage over another but rather to create an even playing field for all involved while keeping in mind the larger ocean issues. Coral reefs are complex systems that rely on a great number of factors and individual organisms. And, just as every coral reef is different and has its particular needs, every community that relies on these intricate and delicate environments also has its own stability to look after so that both the natural and human side can continue to co-exist sustainably. “There are many people who [rely on] these coral reef systems, and we have to accommodate all of them.”
Judi is a Certified Practicing Accountant and a practicing Lawyer who has held executive roles in the private sector and in Government. Her work has focused on finance, legislation and international negotiations in fisheries compliance and the marine environment. Judi has volunteered on AusAID programs, alleviating poverty by developing marine tourism for fishing villages in the Philippines and Vanuatu. As a dive instructor, commercial boat master and the dive tourist, Judi has dived all over the world.
Judi’s Phd in research with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at James Cook University in Australia, focuses on the role of dive tourism as a private sector participant in integrated coastal management, particularly its capacity to diversify the livelihoods of artisanal fishers who are often the traditional owners of coral reefs, fish and marine resources.
“Marine Protected Areas are one of the most important tools in conserving coral reefs and marine resources.”
“A lot of the things that I used to see in the ocean when I was really young you just don’t see now.” Judi points to Marine Protected Areas in the fight to save the ocean, “as really one of the most important tools in conserving coral reefs and marine resources.”
To hear Judi’s entire interview and learn more about the delicate balance between preserving marine biodiversity and the rights of the indigenous peoples that rely on these same resources see Blue Ocean Summit 2015: Judi Lowe
Another speaker discussing our theme of Citizen Scientists and Dive tourism as a Tool for Conservation is Ken Nedimyer. Ken saw that with climate change, ocean acidification and coral bleaching his Florida reefs were in serious trouble. In 2002 he began an offshore coral nursery that today has the potential to change the future of coral reefs in the Florida Keys. His years of experimentation involved improving coral nursery techniques; training volunteers (Citizen Scientists) and developing effective ways to transplant the corals onto the nearby reefs. Ken is now developing coral nursery and restoration programs throughout the Caribbean. To read more about Ken’s coral restoration projects and learn how you can be a Citizen Scientist see Ocean Profiles: Ken Nedimyer