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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 5, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---"Substantial" additional protection of coral reef ecosystems is needed in the Western Pacific region, a new report says.

The recommendation is one of the highlights of the draft environmental impact system prepared for the proposed Fishery Management Plan for Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Western Pacific Region.

Richard Seman, director of the Northern Marianas Division of Fish and Wildlife, said it proposes to establish:

"The CNMI as a whole is very dependent on reef fishes, which in turn are dependent on coral reef, so we have to protect these areas," said Seman.

He said the Northern Marianas has the second largest coral reef system in the U.S., second only to Hawai‘i.

The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council offered four alternatives to protect coral reefs, including status quo or no action; minimal additional protection; substantial additional protection; and maximum additional protection.

Substantial additional protection, however, remains as the preferred alternative. This is due to its combined management measures, which are anticipated to provide enhanced levels of protection and increased opportunities for appropriate management of the region’s coral reef ecosystem resources.

The proposed coral reef ecosystem plan is expected to combine harvest controls with careful monitoring in a manner, which allows for the controlled utilization of these vital resources in an ecologically sensitive manner.

"The plan has been to immediately protect large portions of coral reef and associated resources, while allowing flexibility to adapt to a wide variety of potential management issues as resource utilization develops," said the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

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