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Press Release November 19, l999

Representatives from nine Pacific Island countries have just spent a week in Tahiti planning ways of giving communities the skills they need to protect their own marine resources.

The workshop is part of a South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) project which works with communities throughout the region, identifying innovative ways for them to protect and sustainably manage and develop their marine environments. It is funded by the Canada-South Pacific Ocean Development Program Phase Two (CSPOD II) and by the U.S. State Department. The workshop was planned in close cooperation with French Polynesia' s Environment Ministry.

Workshop organizer Lucille Apis-Overhoff said the SPREP project aimed to train people working closely with communities with the skills needed to establish Marine Protected Areas, or to maintain and manage existing Marine Protected Areas.

"There are many differences between various Pacific Island countries -- their cultures, their languages, their way of life," Ms. Apis-Overhoff said. "However, what we all share in common is a strong reliance on maintaining a healthy marine environment. For all the Pacific, our marine environment is vital to our well being because it sustains our very lives and livelihoods. Coastal and ocean areas provide communities with food, medicine, minerals, construction materials and a whole host of other valuable resources.

She said marine areas are increasingly under threat from pollution, over-exploitation and poor land use practices, among others.

"One way to make sure these vital areas continue to provide our children with the same resources is to use Marine Protected Areas, and this week’s workshop has looked in depth at this option," she said. "The participants have been discussing ways of building up the confidence and capacity of communities to use Marine Protected Areas as a way of sustainably developing and managing their own marine resources.

Ms. Apis-Overhoff said when the workshop participants return to their respective countries, they will then train their colleagues at the national level, to increase the number of people in each community who have the skills and knowledge needed.

For further information, contact: Jan Sinclair SPREP Tel: (685) 21 929 Fax: (685) 20 231 Email 

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