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UK University Launches RP Coral Reef Protection and Ecotourism Program

June 7, 2007

Imagine a coral reef population that steadily expands as a habitat of marine diversity. Imagine as well the joy of beholding the various shapes, shades and colors of marine life, and the resources that these will provide to future generations.

The Central Visayan Sea is steadily moving in that direction, and will receive a boost when the UK-based Durham University’s Coral Awareness and Research Expedition 2007 (DU CARE 2007) enters the Visayan seas next month.

DU CARE follows a tradition of support and solidarity in environmental protection nurtured by the dedication, determination, and consistent support of the government and people of Great Britain.

Universities and non-governmental organizations based in the UK, with the assistance of the UK Embassy in Manila have sustained an increasing involvement in coral reef protection, environmental awareness and education, and eco-tourism in the Central and Eastern Visayas for the past few years.

British volunteers working with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and NGOs such as Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) have been recognized for their exceptional contributions to protecting marine biodiversity in the country.

DU CARE will resurvey all reef check sites in the Visayas Sea from previous years to assess the level of improvement or degradation in reef health.

Scientists and students will pay particular attention to establishing new reef check sites, particularly in areas damaged by the recent oil spill in Guimaras Island, in order to assess the damage inflicted.

An important aspect of the project is awareness building among local schools to educate students about the crucial importance of marine conservation for the fishing trade of future generations.

Capabilities of local people will be enhanced in carrying out detailed anthropological surveys to gain local insights on existing sanctuaries and the extent of local knowledge of marine conservation.

To ensure sustainability from the start, DU CARE will involve local states and local executives. DU CARE will engage barangay captains, government officials, the Coastguard, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in their initiatives.

During these visits DU CARE will present the results of their surveys and discuss methods already in place for preserving the seas, in addition to potential suggestions for the future.

DU CARE 2007 combines specialist knowledge and expertise with NGO determination and grit. It is the fourth in a series of expeditions, which have been extremely successful.

In just six months, spread over three years, marine sanctuaries have been installed in damaged areas; strong links have been established with the Coastal Dynamics Foundation in Cebu; public awareness of sustainable fishery and conservation effects has increased significantly and a great improvement in the marine biodiversity of protected areas has been seen.

The work of the CDF, including links with DU CARE, is to be screened in April this year in a documentary on the Visayan Sea by BBC Earth Reports.

This is proof of the biological and economical importance of the area, and of the urgent need to maintain its outstanding beauty and prosperity. (PNA in Bayanihan.org, June 5, 2007)

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