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F: Welcome Address (by Mr. Hassan Sobir, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture)

I am very pleased to welcome you all this morning.

As the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, I clearly remember a year ago when our research team brought this matter up to discuss the workshop with me and my own suggestions as to how it could be managed and funded. It has taken almost a year for the workshop to materialize.

Seeing you all today, I cannot but feel elated that the workshop is now a reality, and we are about to begin four days of discussions on how we can best share one common resource and our most important resource - the coral reefs.

Organising a workshop of such high scientific quality is a complex activity, involving several different groups of people. A higher level of interaction is required among various groups of people, specially in trying to coordinate a group of international experts to assist us in this exercise.

I myself shared in turn their excitement, frustration and problems in getting the workshop organised and I am now experiencing with them a sense of achievement for having you here together at last. I should congratulate the secretariat therefore, for a job very well done.

The moving spirit behind the secretariat has been the close cooperation among the staff of the Marine Research Section, of my Ministry and the Bay of Bengal Programme, in developing the concept and the guidelines for the secretariat to implement.

To all the agencies who have helped: Ministry of Planning, Human Resources and Environment, Ministry of Atolls Administration, Ministry of Tourism and the Attorney General's Office, I would like to express my gratitude for their cooperation and unstinting support for this undertaking. I would also like to thank the all the private individuals, as well as the tourism industry, for having responded to our requests for assistance.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate the International Experts, for having come all the way to the Maldives, to share their experiences, from different regions of the world sharing similar ecosystems. I have no doubt that this workshop will generate new knowledge and will greatly assist the government in establishing a well structured policy for an Integrated Reef Resources Management Programme.

To all those who will be participating in this four day workshop, I wish you all success in this concerted effort in making this workshop a great contribution to the process of managing our reefs in a sustainable manner.

I bid you a warm welcome.

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