What is the Nature Fee?
The Fee in the amount of $5 is collected through HOW’s Preferred Activity Providers from each participant that embarks onto the Manta Ray Experience. This is our way of “paying it forward” by advocating safe, sustainable and marine life friendly tour boat practices.
Below you see how the funds will be distributed.
What will the Nature Fee be used for?
1. The Green List of Activity Providers
HOW will adopt, maintain, publicize and promote the Green List of Activity Providers for the Manta Ray Experience in Kona Hawaii, a “grassroots” movement created and established by the Manta Ray Advocates in 2014.
The Green List identifies Activity Providers who adhere to the Industry Standards for Manta Ray Tours in Kona, Hawaii. They were created in 2013 through an industry-wide working group at the behest of State and Federal Officials so that tour operators have specific guidelines and best practices to follow.
Adherence to the Standards to uphold Best Practices demonstrates a coherent, aware and cooperative industry to incoming participants.
2. Maritime Skills Training
In 2017, HOW will establish and implement a maritime skills training program including online learning and hands-on sessions to increase the maritime skill level for snorkel guides, dive masters and boat captains.
The curriculum will be developed in collaboration with senior captains, crew and management.
By participating in the Nature Fee program the participating boat operator will receive training for their crew at no charge which will ultimately increase the overall safety of operations within the boating industry.
HOW THIS ALL CAME ABOUT
In the summer of 2016, HOW’s co-founder Martina Wing approached Kerry and Katie Key (owner and operations manager of Kona Diving Company) and brainstormed about the possibilities of how to create a mutual beneficial environment for a non-profit organization and an activity provider.
Kona Diving Company is known for its stellar customer service and we felt Kerry and her staff would help us with ideas and implementation. Their input has been inspirational and we can’t thank them enough for their overall support.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is drafting a new permit system for the manta ray industry and the overall trend seems to be towards protection and regulation, but the wheels of progress move slowly. Too slowly.
Existing local non-profits were focusing on researching marine-life or other worthy causes, but no organization was singularly focused on the exploitation of the manta rays to the point of doing them harm.
HOW was looking for a unique way of being funded and Kerry and Katie had mentioned often that they were excited for HOW to continue the Grassroots movement of green-listing operators in town, themselves being strong supporters of it.
As much as it sounds like “living the dream”, owning a boating company taking tourists out to enjoy the Pacific Ocean, it is very hard work in every aspect of running a small business on a remote island located in the most expensive cost of living State in the US.
Being in the ocean recreational business herself for almost two decades, Martina Wing saw the incredible burden all operators have to carry, staffing. The ocean recreational industry attracts a transient work force. Maintaining skill level that keeps everyone safe on the ocean is a sobering challenge for business owners. Much is at stake. The need for training new staff is ongoing…and don’t forget the liability for every crew member and captain is high when taking happy, but quite often low-skilled tourists, on an Experience of a lifetime.
This sparked the idea for offering maritime skills training specific to the Manta Ray Industry through HOW, expandable to other industries down the road.
The concept was refined to include sharing of funds with other non-profits. This was presented to owners and management of 12 additional dive and snorkel manta tour companies in town. The feedback was positive and in unison: the Nature Fee is a excellent funding idea and very much needed.
At HOW we want the boat operators to do what they do best: show you the amazing Kona Coast and the Pacific Ocean with its abundance of marine life like Manta Rays, Dolphins, Reef Fish, Sharks, Humpback Whales and so much more…all under the umbrella of SAFETY, SUSTAINABILITY and MARINE-LIFE FRIENDLY operation. We want this to be a “two-way street” benefiting humans and marine life through on-going education and awareness on HOW’s social media platforms.
As of launch day – January 1, 2017, 5 boat operators have committed to charge the Nature Fee Program.
We are thrilled and hope that more activity providers will take the step towards protection and join this program creating a WIN-WIN-WIN situation: for the people, the marine life and the environment.
Interested to join? It is going to be great! Click here for more information.