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By Harlyne Joku The National of Papua New Guinea

DENPASSAR, Bali, Indonesia (October 26, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---The effective conservation work of Papua New Guinea's dive tourism operators has been recognized at a major coral reefs conference in Bali.

Papua New Guinea's Status Report at the International Coral Reef Symposium said the PNG Divers Association plays a significant role in marine conservation.

In presenting the report, Environment and Conservation officer Vagi Rei said that dive operators clearly have the best infrastructure for visiting reef areas and monitoring reef conservation programs.

But Mr. Rei said that government departments with responsibilities for management of reef systems are hampered by staff shortages and severe funding cutbacks.

Mr. Rei said much of the capacity for biodiversity assessment, the establishment and management of marine protected areas, and the development of community education programs now lies with NGO's (Non Government Organizations).

"Unfortunately there is little capacity for the enforcement of laws, quotas and regulations," Mr. Rei said.

But he added that local communities could play a greater role in the enforcement of fisheries regulations and marine protected areas through the expansion of community based management programs.

As human contact with PNG reefs increases, the need for substantially greater capacity to assess and deal with reefs will become critical, he said.

Mr. Rei stressed that a high priority must be given to protecting and enhancing the capacity for impact assessment, monitoring and management of the reefs.

According to the report, recent surveys and anecdotal accounts indicate that PNG's reefs are in very good condition compared to other Pacific Island nations and Australian.

PNG is part of the Western Pacific region of maximum marine biodiversity and is widely recognized for coral reefs of exceptional biodiversity.

In recent years, rapid ecological assessments of coral reefs have been conducted in Kimbe, West New Britain; the Lak region of New Ireland and Milne Bay provinces; Bootless Bay in Central province; and Madang and Kamiali on the north coast.

"The diversity of reef fishes and corals at these locations ranks among the highest recorded globally. Furthermore, the number of species recorded on single dives is often among the highest recorded during rapid ecological surveys in the Pacific region," the report stated.

Ms. Joku is attending the International Coral Reefs Symposium after winning a World Resources Institute/PINA Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists Fellowship.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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