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Coral reefs everywhere are a feast to the eye and mind, a magnificent repository of resources, a treasure-house of wealth, a testament to bio-diversity. In the Maldives, coral reefs play an even more important role, because they provide the living base for this SIDS (small-island developing state) which comprises a thousand coral islands.

The economy of the Maldives depends to an appreciable degree on the exploitation of its marine resources. Till the 1970s, the nation's reef resources were largely untapped. Since the 1980s, a new fishery targeting reef species has emerged. High export demand, a small resource base, and lack of management measures have combined to impose severe pressure on this fishery.

The Integrated Reef Resources Management Programme (IRRMP), launched by the Government of Maldives, responds to this pressure. It is a holistic approach to reef management that seeks to combine fisherfolk knowledge, scientific studies of reefs and the expertise of all Ministries in the reef areas.

The BOBP is proud to support the IRRMP which tackles five key issues: the reef fishery; baitfishery for tuna pole and line; coal mining; tourism-fishery interactions; and comprehensive resource management. The IRRM Workshop helped create a forum for a common understanding on these issues. It brought together several Ministries and numerous departments, scientists, officials, fisherfolk, even students. In fact, it is a matter for delight that students contributed usefully to the Workshop with a thoughtful statement and a list of recommendations.

We congratulate the organizers of the Workshop on their sincere and painstaking efforts. We share the feeling of a "a sense of achievement" as the Hon Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Mr Hassan Sobir, put it, about the Workshop's successful conduct and conclusion. It has helped develop an implementation strategy for a more holistic approach to reef management.

Thanks to the Workshop and the implementation of its recommendations, coral reefs may continue to delight and benefit the people of the Maldives, and visitors from everywhere, for a long time.

Kee-Chai CHONG
Programme Coordinator, BOBP.


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