Chief Guest, Ministers, distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
Maldive islands have existed for thousands of years providing a safe habitat to numerous terrestrial and marine lives because of the wonderful reefs surrounding its islands and atolls. The reef has been a part and parcel of the life of the people of the Maldives from time immemorial. It has been protecting our homes. It has been a source of income. It has been a place of recreation.
The existence of these wonderful reefs which we have taken for granted has been threatened during the last 25 years due to large scale coral mining, overfishing of some commercially valuable reef fishes and the use of reefs for Tourism and Fisheries in some areas resulting in erosion of islands, depletion of marine lives and creation of conflicts among users of reefs. Though reef resources management attempts are not entirely new in this country and regulations to solve these problems are in place, this is the first time a workshop is being organised at the national level to identify a suitable integrated reef resources management strategy. However, such a strategy will be successful and achieve the desired goals only with the acceptance of such a strategy, co-operation by all resource users and continued hard work by government and the public. Scientists and the international community also have a significant role to play in this task.
I would like to congratulate my colleague Maizan Hassan Maniku, Director General of the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, who has played a key role in organising this workshop with the assistance of number of people. He always plays an important role in all marine-related research and projects with assistance within and outside Maldives. During the entire life of the Marine Research Section of our Ministry, he has headed the section in the right direction and has achieved much. I would also like to thank all the Ministers including the present Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Hon. Hassan Sobir for their encouragement and guidance without which the work for sustainable use of our reef resources would not be successful. Last but not least, I would like to express our gratitude to His Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom for his untiring efforts to preserve the beautiful environment of our country for the benefit of present and future generations.
I wish you all well.