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OceansWatch expedition sets sail for Melanesia

By Sue Richards last modified May 06, 2010 08:37 PM

Published: 2010-05-06 20:37:07
Topics: Environment
Countries: Papua New Guinea , Solomon Islands , Vanuatu

OceansWatch’s project lead-boats, Moksha and Magic Roundabout, set sail from Opua on Monday. The yachts are first bound for Port Vila, Vanuatu where they will begin their 6 month expeditions to work with coastal communities in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to provide marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods guidance. OceansWatch CEO and Moksha Skipper, Chris Bone, said that “There are a growing number of communities in Melanesia requesting our support, as communities struggle with issues of climate change, rising sea-levels and decreasing fish stocks. OceansWatch plays a small role in bringing together the right people, with the right skills to work towards more sustainable livelihoods and marine ecosystems.”

It will take the boats between 8 to 12 days to reach Port Vila in Vanuatu. Once there, the teams will be working closely with Fisheries Officials, Reef Check Vanuatu and local communities. Marine Projects Co-cordinator Irene Llabres Pohl said “Our work this year begins with two weeks of Reef Check Training for Vanuatu Fisheries representatives, crew and members. Reef Check is an excellent tool to allow communities to gain a better understanding of their marine life and monitor the changes in their marine ecosystem. Education and capacity building are key first steps in building foundations for strong marine management plans.”

From here the project lead-boats part company. Moksha will head to the Solomon Islands and then onto PNG. Work will be concentrated in two main communities whilst in the Solomon's, those of Tuo community in the Reef Islands and with the Tehakatu’u Conservation Committee on Rennell Island where OceansWatch assisted in the setting up of a 20 hectare Marine Reserve in 2009. Like many Atoll islands, Tuo is currently facing issues of increased salt in their freshwater supply and decreased fish stocks. In PNG the Moksha crew with be joined by Fisheries representatives and researchers from the University of Queensland Centre for Marine Studies who are using the boat as a platform for their research. Crew on Moksha will be continuing to monitor the coral reefs and implement Marine Protected Areas as well as assisting communities towards becoming more sustainable.

The core team on Moksha consists of Skipper Chris Bone, Marine Projects Coordinator Irene Llabres Pohl, First Mate and Climate Change Researcher Kathryn Rainone, and Team Scientist Emily Long, the crew are being helped across to Vanuatu by Sailor Tristan Kiddie.

Magic Roundabout will spend the 2010 season in Vanuatu waters, continuing previous years work with Fisheries and Reef Check. There is also a possibility that the team will sail for the Solomon Islands in August to provide follow-up on Moksha's work there. The core crew in the "Magic" team are Project Leader Claire Giner and Marine Biologist Tom Barnfield, in Vanuatu they will be met by Skipper Guy Robinson and his son, Divemaster Jesse Robinson.

OceansWatch is a New Zealand based NGO that works hand in hand with Pacific Island communities to empower and educate them to overcome the threats to their environment of pollution, climate change and over-fishing. 2010 is our third year of operation.

For further information see their website and blog sites at www.oceanswatch.org
Alternatively contact Rachel Ward on rachel@oceanswatch.org or +64 9 4344066

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