Operation Wallacea adheres to a social and environmental responsibility programme that meets (and exceeds in some aspects) the requirements of a Responsible Tourism Operator. The policy is described below with examples from some of the 14 countries in which the Operation Wallacea research programmes run, on how each of the clauses are met.
The purpose of this clause is to ensure that as much as possible of the funding provided by the project is spent in the host country. In some countries there were existing NGOs or academic institutions that could run the research programme from the outset. These included the University of Havana for the two Cuba sites, AmazonEco for the two Peru sites, Wildlife and Ecological Investments for the sites in South Africa, and Honduran Coral Reef Foundation and Coral View for the two marine research programmes in Honduras. For other countries new NGOs have been formed to run the research programmes and to use the facilities created by the programmes to attract additional income outside the Opwall season. These include NGOs that have been formed with assistance from Operation Wallacea such as Grupo de Apoyo al Desarrollo that runs the projects on the Honduran coast. At some of the largest sites there were no obvious existing partners and the expeditions were therefore run initially by Operation Wallacea directly. After a few years of operation the most reliable local staff were encouraged to form a new NGO and the facilities and equipment built up by Operation Wallacea were then handed over to them and a period of joint operation agreed. All these sites are now run by these new NGOs including Lawana Ecotone for the Indonesian forest sites, Lembaga Alam for the Indonesian marine sites and Expediciones y Servicios Ambientales de Cusuco for the Honduran mountain sites.
In order to avoid leakage of funds away from the research site a number of techniques are used, including using locally owned homestays wherever possible rather than hotels. Tents or hammocks which belong to the NGOs are used in many of the sites. Food and supplies are purchased locally wherever possible and guides, cooks and porters drawn from local communities to staff the projects. Boats, buses and vehicles used for the project are locally owned and operated in most cases.
Maximum numbers of volunteers and staff are set for each of the sites. All volunteers and staff are briefed on local culture and customs and required to adhere to agreed standards of behaviour.
This is one of the main objectives of the Operation Wallacea research programme (see Global Research and Conservation Management Strategy) so there are many examples of how this is achieved (see Research Objectives for each country).
Much of this work is done via the Operation Wallacea Trust. Activities include helping with developing ecotourism using the Operation Wallacea facilities outside of the Opwall season. These include the development of the carrageenan extraction plant as a method of buying out fishing licences at the Indonesian marine site and the sale of products such as coffee and cashews from the Indonesian and Honduran forest sites through the Wildlife Conservation Products scheme from villages that have agreed conservation contracts.
The substantial promotional programme to raise awareness about the biodiversity of the Lambusango forests in SE Sulawesi and the problems with the reef fishery in the Wakatobi Marine National Parks are good examples of raising awareness. Provision of skills training for local students and collaborations with local academics has occurred in all countries.
Resource usage (water, fuel, energy) at each of the sites has been identified and targets set. Many of the sites have limited water supplies (island marine sites in Honduras and research ship based research in Cuba and Peru) so reduction of water usage is part of the expedition protocols.