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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (July 7, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Renowned Palau environmentalist Noah Idechong is among oceans experts who will meet with regional and international journalists in the Cook Islands.

The American organization SeaWeb and the regional Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) have combined to run a six-day program bringing together oceans and conservation experts and journalists.

Journalists from the Pacific region and beyond have been awarded scholarships for the SeaWeb/PINA Pacific Ocean Sciences Fellowship Program that began on Saturday.

This is providing the selected journalists unprecedented access to:

§ Pacific region marine and conservation experts,

§ the latest scientific findings on environmental threats to the Pacific Ocean, and

§ hands-on lab and field activities.

Resource people for the program include such international names as Idechong, who in 2000 was named by TIME magazine as one of "Heroes for the Planet" for his contribution to marine conservation.

Idechong, a high school teacher turned marine environmentalist, was in 1995 named one of the six global recipients of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

In 1997 he was awarded a US$ 150,000 Pew Fellowship to study and expand marine conservation efforts in Palau.

SeaWeb has a strong focus on ocean sciences and its projects include an Ocean Information Program.

During the SeaWeb/PINA Fellowship, participants will meet regional experts, who will generate news in the coming years about the most severe ecological dangers to Pacific nations -- climate change and rising sea levels.

As well they will meet experts on:

- coral reef degradation;

- over fishing and destructive fishing practices;

- coastal development and land-based pollution; and

- diseases and mass mortality events among marine life.

The program will also focus on exploring ocean conservation success stories.

These include the effectiveness of marine protected areas, and how island communities’ traditional management practices can inform modern day solutions to ocean issues.

Pacific Islands journalists taking part come from PINA members in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Tonga.

International journalists taking part come from such organizations as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Los Angeles Times,, Science Magazine, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Idechong heads a long list of experts for the program.

They also include: Cristina Balboa (World Resources Institute), Yimnang Golbuu (Palau International Coral Reef Centre), Solomone Fifita (Secretariat of the Pacific Community), "Chip" Barber (International Marinelife Alliance), Lu Eldredge (Pacific Science Association), Nan Hauser (Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation), Penehuro Lefale (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, NZ), Paul Lokani (The Nature Conservancy, PNG), Job Opu (South Pacific Regional Environment Programme), Ben Ponia (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Bill Aarlersberg (University of the South Pacific), Wayne King (International Global Climate Change Institute, New Zealand), Michael King

(AusAID Samoa Fisheries Project), Te Tika Mataiapo-Dorice Reid (Koutu Nui, Cook Islands), Alifereti Tawake (University of the South Pacific), John Hay (University of Waikato), Joeli Veiteyaki (University of the South Pacific), Anna Tiraa (Taporoporoanga Ipukarea, Cook Islands), Chip Boyle (Cook Islands Aquarium), Jacqueline Evans (East-West Center, Hawaii), Transform Aqorau (Forum Fisheries Agency), Raymond Newnham (Ora Moana, Cook Islands).

PINA president Johnson Honimae, of Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, is the main facilitator for the program, along with Patty Debenham of SeaWeb.

They are supported by Shannon Crownover and Stacy Lane, from SeaWeb; and Nina Ratulele and Peter Lomas, from the PINA Secretariat.

The 7th South Pacific Conference for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is being held simultaneously in Rarotonga.

Fellowship participants will also be able to attend this meeting and interact with conference participants.

The conference, which is held once every four years, is the pre-eminent nature conservation gathering in the region.

It is coordinated by the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).

About 300 participants from government, conservation, science and the private sector will identify the region’s conservation priorities.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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