Green Bubbles, Green Bubbles RISE for sustainable diving


Green Bubbles is an EU-funded project dedicated to recreational SCUBA diving, an activity engaging millions of people worldwide. Green Bubbles has worked to maximise the benefits associated with diving while minimising its negative impacts, thus achieving the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the diving system. An important component of the benefits associated with SCUBA diving is its educational potential.

Green Bubbles (GB) is an EU-funded project dedicated to recreational SCUBA diving, an activity engaging millions of people worldwide. The scope of GB, which has run from January 2015 to December 2018, has been to maximise the benefits associated with diving while minimising its negative impacts, thus achieving the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the diving system.

Green Bubbles has been implemented by a consortium of ten entities, including universities, research organisations, educational organisations and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) from six different countries located in three continents (Italy, the Netherlands, Malta, Turkey, South Africa and the United States). Green Bubbles is an ambitious and complex project, cutting across many disciplines (socio-economics, marine sciences, ecological economics, medicine/physiology, risk management, IT/engineering, gamification, education/pedagogy, business and marketing).

Green Bubbles has worked to maximise the benefits associated with diving (such as direct and indirect revenues for coastal communities and Marine Protected Areas - MPAs, promotion of ocean stewardship, contribution to scientific research, fostering social inclusion and personal development) while minimising its negative impacts (including those due to damage or disturbance of habitats and organisms, and to conflicts with local communities for the access to/use of the same resources, equity issues, or cultural clashes).

To such an end, the project began with a thorough assessment of the human and physical dimensions of the diving system. Based on the results of this first phase, the project has developed four additional research lines aimed at delivering concrete outputs that could be taken up by divers, dive operators, large diving agencies, other tourism businesses, territorial authorities and schools – all these stakeholders have engaged directly with the Green Bubbles researchers, ensuring relevant feedback throughout the project lifespan. These four and interlinked lines have been pursued at both primary case studies (the Portofino MPA in Italy, and the Partial Marine Reserve of Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique) and have focused on:

  1. Building a better and integrated traditional offer at the diving destinations, also throughout tailored business models and marketing approaches.
  2. Bringing diving in schools, as a supporting tool to Ocean Literacy and STEM in general.
  3. Structuring Citizen Science in the context of scuba diving, also as an educational tool.
  4. Supporting quality labelling in diving.

Basic information

Country: Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Turkey, Other

Coordinator: Prof. Carlo Cerrano

Programme: Horizon 2020

Project Acronym:

Target groups: education authorities, general public, industry, policy makers, primary school students, researchers, secondary school students, teachers, trainee teachers, university students, university lecturers, other

Topic: Applied sciences, Biology, Biomedicine, Biotechnology, Ecology, Engineering, Environmental sciences, Medical sciences, Physiology, Technology, Education, Other

Start year: 2015

End year: 2018


Contact person: Eliana Ferretti, e.ferretti (at)

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 diving system. This has been done through three different phases:

  • Carefully assessing and modelling the diving system itself (Phase I)
  • Developing innovative products based on the issues and needs highlighted by assessment and modelling (Phase II)
  • Promoting the uptake of such products by the diving system by designing tailored business models and marketing plans (Phase III)

Green Bubbles consists of five operative work packages (WPs):

  • 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 (focusing on divers, dive professionals, communities); environment at the two case-study locations (Portofino MPA in Italy and Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in Mozambique); assessment of the offer and of the marketing approaches for the global diving industry (strategy and marketing). The research under WP1 has seen the collaboration of all Green Bubbles member institutions and was carried out thanks to the support of a large network of divers, diving centres, NGOs, authorities and professionals.
  • WP2 (Enhancing the traditional offer by the diving industry) has worked to assess the traditional offer at case-study locations and to strengthen it by designing new strategies that incorporate cultural tourism, reinforce its nature-based component, and offer tailored business models and marketing approaches.
  • WP3 (Embedding diving and Ocean Literacy into school curricula) has worked to merge the educational potential of diving and of Ocean Literacy (OL) to create new synergies and improve teaching in schools, develop IT tools to support OL in schools, create new markets for the diving industry, offer tailored business models and marketing approaches. One of the main products of this work package has been a modular manual addressed to school teachers built on the topics and subjects of a ministerial curriculum for high schools – each topic is addressed in the light of Ocean Literacy and provides a direct link with diving or snorkelling activities.
  • WP4 (Effective and sustainable Citizen Science - engaging volunteer divers) has worked to deliver divers-based Citizen Science initiatives that are scientifically sound, successful in keeping volunteers engaged, and profitable for dive operators that offer them. This has included: the re-design of selected Citizen Science initiatives and the design of new ones, the development of hardware and software to support them, the drafting of tailored business and marketing models, along with co-management approaches associated to Citizen Science. This WP has also involved the design of several innovative devices for divers’ safety and quality labelling, as well as the organisation of activities/creation of tools and professional figures figures bridging across Citizen Science and Ocean Literacy (thereby linking to WP3).
  • WP5 (Quality labelling for dive operators and MPAs) has run along parallel lines, working to create a quality labelling system for operators and MPAs. Milestones of this work package have been: the development of hardware and software to support quality labelling, the definition of targets and best performances to achieve them, the design of a tiered quality labelling system, the draft of tailored business and marketing models, along with co-management approaches.

A major component of Green Bubbles has been dedicated to reinforcing the societal role of diving, so that the potential benefits that may derive from a sustainable diving system can fully materialise. To such an end, stronger relationships with schools have been identified as essential and one entire work package (WP3) has been devoted to embedding diving and Ocean Literacy into school curricula.

The core of WP3 has been structured along two preliminary research lines, due to finally converge in a unifying product and a set of guidelines. The two preliminary research lines have been respectively dedicated to the analysis of diving entry-level courses (Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, corresponding instructor manuals - training suites by three Certifying Agencies) and to the analysis of school curricula (choosing the Scientific High School to cover a wide range of STEM areas in Italian schools). The unifying product is a teaching support manual (titled "Sea Inside"), consisting of about 100 modules in the broader subject areas of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Geography plus one extra module dedicated to safety at sea. Each module tackles a specific topic from the ministerial school curricula, and offers a marine (linked to the Ocean Literacy Principles) and diving- or snorkelling-oriented lesson plan, with links to external resources and/or examples of hands-on activities. Each module also includes tags to better highlight the corresponding areas covered in diving training, which means the manual can also be navigated in "reverse mode", i.e. from the point of view of a diving instructor willing to link training with school subjects, or to collaborate and organise activities with local schools.

It is important to note that the manual is designed on the basis of ministerial school curricula, thus having a consistent structure, but each module/card can be used as a stand-alone tool as well, thanks to the manual modularity, references to supporting resources and practical approach. Also, each module/card is intended as a starting point for the teachers, who can decide how to address the topic depending on the class (adapting it to different ages and levels) and choose to deepen the theme using the specific external links. Indeed, the manual has been built on the topics of a Scientific High School curricula, but has been designed for use also with younger pupils, and with classes of other High Schools.

The manual is part of a larger set of initiatives dedicated to schools and training, including "train the trainers" activities. Noteworthy among these is the main activity organised at the Mozambique case-study location, targeted at school kids and teachers. In Ponta do Ouro (Mozambique) Green Bubbles has worked to create a protocol of marine education for local school children, together with Reef Check Italia and the local Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR). The protocol is implemented on a regular basis by the PPMR in collaboration with local stakeholders, the local school and the local scuba diving industry.

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