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OceansWatch to tour the Australian East Coast

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 30, 2009 05:34 PM

Published: 2009-10-30 17:34:11
Topics: Environment
Countries: Australia , Papua New Guinea , Solomon Islands , Vanuatu

OceansWatch is to finish its latest environmental and humanitarian expedition in the Pacific with a tour along Australia’s East Coast to raise awareness about marine conservation.

The organisation’s team have spent the past six months at sea delivering aid, setting up marine protected areas, and educating local people in marine conservation in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The OceansWatch crew will visit universities, schools, yacht clubs and marinas from Brisbane to Cairns to raise awareness about marine conservation, education and humanitarian aid needs in developing countries.

The organisation’s latest Pacific expedition has been its most successful to date. This year saw the team undertake a much more ambitious schedule than in 2008, taking in more islands and bigger projects than before.

In Vanuatu 3 local conservationists were trained in SCUBA, to more effectively monitor their own reef’s health.

In Rennell Island (Solomon’s), the team helped to set up a Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the Tehakatu’u tribe.

In Karkar Island (PNG), they helped the local communities select three MPA’s, delivered reading glasses, surveyed the route for a freshwater pipeline and gifted 51 scholarships for children to attend primary school, using funds raised by Kamo High School in New Zealand.

In Garove Island (PNG), they delivered tools for building canoes and picked up pen pal letters as part of the OceansWatch education program.

In Kavieng (PNG), they repeated annual surveys that had been done in 2008 at community initiated MPA’s and provided survey data for the PNG Institute of Sustainable Marine Resources. They also trained a local man, Keithson, in Reef Check survey techniques and SCUBA.

In the remote St Mathias group (PNG) they surveyed reefs and met with several communities who all expressed interest in a repeat visit and assistance with setting up MPA’s.

At almost every stop the team gave educational talks to people of all ages on reef ecology and conservation management and trained volunteers in marine health monitoring systems such as Reef Check.

Many of these communities are only accessible by boat, and as such, are often forgotten by other aid organisations. Equally forgotten are the precious marine ecosystems around these remote islands, which need more than rules and regulations to protect them. Many of these fisheries require permanent local monitoring bodies, changes in fishing methods, conservation education in schools, and effective alternatives to environmentally damaging practises. OceansWatch expeditions are designed to assist local people achieve these goals.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the Pacific Ocean and around the world if marine environments are to be protected and sustained in the future. OceansWatch will be back in the Pacific next year and for years to come. On their coastal tour they hope to inspire the Australian public to join their cause.

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