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OceansWatch needs volunteers to sail to the South Pacific

by Kim Renshaw/Sail-World Cruising on 13 Feb 2012
Solomon Islanders seek the help of OceansWatch volunteers SW
Do you have a yen to go ocean sailing and lack only the opportunity? OceansWatch, a marine conservation and sustainable development charity founded in 2007 in New Zealand and now spread to Australia and the USA, undertakes marine conservation projects and offers humanitarian aid to coastal communities in developing countries, primarily in the South Pacific - and they are looking for volunteers.

OceansWatch is joining forces with another Pacific Island community to establish a much needed Marine Protected Area (MPA) and management plan. OceansWatch are now recruiting for volunteers to travel by yacht to the Soloman Islands in 2012.

OceansWatch were approached by the Fenualoa Island community in the Temotu Province in the Solomon Islands.

The community and the charity first came together two years ago when help was needed to save their troubled fish stocks and their reef in 2010, OceanWatch CEO Chris Bone said.

'OceansWatch answered their call and helped them establish the goals for the communities and their fisheries,' he said.

The groups will work together with the Temotu Fisheries and Provincial Government to create the 30,000 hectare MMA (Marine Managed Area) over the next year.

OceansWatch will depart from Opua and Brisbane and sail up to the Solomon Islands where they will be based for 4 months. En route the yachts will stop for two weeks in Vanuatu for training, where one yacht will stay in Vanuatu for ongoing work.

'The yacht crews will consist of divers, marine biologists, community development specialists and skippers,' Mr Bone said. 'Volunteers who want to help communities in developing countries who have skills and a keen attitude to help can apply for a place on the trip as a volunteer.'

The 2012 project will focus on the creation of a network of ten no-take MPAs within a MMA surrounding Fenualoa Island. An MMA is much like a national park – an area protected and allowed to flourish.

'This is necessary for the sustainability of the fishery which provides the community with the bulk of their food, and for the protection of the precious reef ecosystem,' Mr Bone explained.

He added that protection of the world’s reefs is paramount to the health of our earth.

'As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase and acidity in the oceans rise, the reefs are suffering damage and dying off. Reefs provide oxygen equal to rainforest (per square metre) through photosynthesis – so protection of reefs is protection of the world's oxygen supply.'


The physical supplies and scientific input required to create such a huge area will be provided by OceansWatch, such a buoys and ropes.

OceansWatch and the community undertake surveys of their reef to analyse the changes in the reef and the state of the fisheries.

'This manual work is integral to the management of marine areas and is the key to the ongoing success of an MMA/MPA,' said Mr Bone.

'During the 2010 visit the community expressed concern about their water supply, which seemed to be getting saltier,' Mr Bone added.

The charity’s scientists undertook testing, which confirmed the high salinity of some of their drinking wells and this year, further research will be undertaken and the safest places for drinking water identified for the community.
Oceans Watch website

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