[ASC-media] AIMS media release: New Guinea's remote reefs get Aussie health check

Wendy Ellery w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Thu Aug 10 00:33:41 CEST 2006

10 August 2006


A team of Australian scientists will survey the remote reefs in the
northern Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea so we can better understand
the marine life of our closest neighbour and help protect it. 

"We are surveying one of the richest marine environments on our planet
so we are looking forward to making some amazing discoveries," says Dr
Alison Green, Senior Marine Scientist with The Nature Conservancy who is
leading the survey. "Little is known about the underwater life in this
very remote part of the world which is becoming increasingly significant
as our marine regions are more threatened."

The month-long survey begins on 13 August and will include reefs in the
northern Bismarck Sea about 500 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby.
The team will concentrate on reefs in the south of Manus Province, and
near New Hanover and Tigak Islands in New Ireland Province. The team
expect to dive at about 50 sites to survey corals, fish and commercially
important species such as fish and clams.

"The survey will discover if there are any special animals or habitats
that we need to protect. This information is vital for government
agencies, non-government organisations and communities to assist
conservation efforts and better manage these critical resources," said
Dr Green.

The survey in Papua New Guinea is one of a series of surveys being led
by The Nature Conservancy to better understand marine life and work
toward a global network of marine protected areas in the centre of
marine biodiversity known as the Coral Triangle. Previous surveys have
been conducted in Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Federated States of

The survey team includes Dr John (Charlie) Veron from the Australian
Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Mr Emre Turak who will assess
coral diversity, coral reef health and look for new coral species. Dr
Veron is a world-recognised coral specialist who has written more than
20 books about corals.

"The Bismarck Sea is inside the Coral Triangle, which is home to almost
three quarters of all of the world's coral species," says Dr Veron from
AIMS. "I expect we will find coral species that are new to science in
this very special region." 

Mr Emre Turak is an experienced coral ecologist who specialises in rapid
assessments of coral reefs. He will assess the status and health of the
coral communities. Turak has undertaken assessments in the Solomon
Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and throughout Australia. 

Dr Gerald Allen from the Western Australian Museum will also take part
in the survey and get an accurate count of coral reef fishes of the
region. Dr Allen is a world expert on coral reef fishes and has been
diving for 35 years and spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. He has
written more than 20 books about coral reef fishes.

These visitors will complement work by a local team who will survey
commercially important species including clams, beche-de-mer and fishes.

The survey is being led by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with
the World Wide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and
National Fisheries Authority of Papua New Guinea.

For more information: 

Dr Alison Green, Senior Scientist, Marine Conservation Program, Asia
Pacific The Nature Conservancy, Brisbane, 

073214 6902 or 0408 72493; agreen at tnc.org

Ms Wendy Ellery, AIMS media liaison, Townsville on 07 4753 4409 or 0418
729 265 or w.ellery at aims.gov.au

Dr Charlie Veron, AIMS, Townsville on 07 4753 4274; j.veron at aims.gov.au


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