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“A lot to learn about Manx marine life” 23 September 2005

    “We still have a lot to learn about Manx marine life,” said Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. “With the impending loss of the Port Erin Marine Laboratory, “ he continued, “it is vital that the Island builds local capacity for marine research.”

    The Minister was speaking after the Wildlife and Conservation Division of DAFF had led a marine weekend to raise awareness of the importance of marine conservation and to encourage local participation in marine conservation activities. Commenting after four days of events, Mr Gawne explained that DAFF is very interested in exploring the possibility of developing marine reserves around the Island.

    “Marine conservation is an area of growing interest for the Department. Personally, I would very much like to see us establish some marine reserves around our shores. Clearly, were we to create a marine reserve, it would be important to have the support of users of our marine environment. Without that support the integrity of any reserves would be difficult to maintain. However, there are potential benefits for fishermen, divers, tourists and Manx residents which might accrue from such marine reserves. There is growing support for conservation in the general public.”

    Visit of Dr Bill Ballantine

    The marine weekend opened with the visit of Dr Bill Ballantine, a world-renowned marine biologist and specialist in fully-protected marine reserves. Dr Ballantine has been involved in establishing marine reserves in New Zealand for 40 years and has advised governments and community organisations around the world on marine conservation and marine protected areas.

    Dr Ballantine met -

    - Mr Gawne and DAFF’s Chief Executive, Mr Tony Warren, as well as representatives of DAFF’s Wildlife and Conservation Division and Sea-fisheries officers;

    - Department of Tourism and Leisure Chief Executive, Carol Glover and Director of Tourism, Geoff le Page;

    - Department of Transport Deputy Director of Harbours, Captain Ken Horsley.

    Dr Ballantine gave a presentation to the public on the New Zealand Experience of Marine Reserves on Friday evening at the Erin Arts Centre. His talk emphasised the importance of marine conservation. He explained the importance of fully-protected marine reserves that allow marine systems to return to a more natural state. They not only benefit marine animals and plants, but can also bring diverse social and economic benefits.

    Dr Ballantine also gave presentations to local divers and sixth formers.

    The programme included the training of 17 local recreational divers in marine survey techniques. The Seasearch programme provides information about marine ecology and conservation. It makes diving more interesting and enables divers to provide vital scientific data supporting conservation.

    Chris Wood, UK Co-ordinator of Seasearch, together with local diver and marine expert Maura Mitchell, ran an introductory course over the weekend. Divers learnt how to recognise key animal and plant species and how to collect survey data on their normal weekend dives. Local divers are often the only people that see areas of the seabed for themselves. They know where important marine species occur and they are also the first to see changes in the marine environment.

    Talk into action

    The Minister summed up Dr Ballantine’s presentation as “a fascinating insight into how the idea of marine reserves in New Zealand grew from a new idea to the 27 successful marine reserves that New Zealand has today.”

    “Dr Ballantine’s key message was that we have to do something to reverse the decline of the oceans for our children, grandchildren and future generations,” said Mr Gawne. “We have a responsibility to turn talk about marine conservation into action.”

    For further details on marine events and information on marine conservation contact Dr Fiona Gell at the Wildlife and Conservation Division (telephone 843109).

    23rd September 2005

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