Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Honorable Hassan Sobir, Honorable Ministers, Director General of Fisheries Research and Development Mr. Hassan Maniku, Resource persons and participants.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a privilege for me to able to make a statement on this important occasion - the closing ceremony of the Integrated Reef Resources Management Workshop. It is a workshop that will assist to establish a management system for a resource that we all depend on. This workshop, Ladies and Gentlemen, is important not only for those directly involved in harvesting the reef resources, but for all.
As none would dispute, our livelihood is entirely dependent on the reef resources. It not only provides the required resources for our existence and development but protects our islands from adverse weather conditions and supplies the sediments to replenish our shores. It is the support and protection of these reefs that enable habitation of these islands - it enabled the birth of a nation with a distinct culture and tradition - and gave us the identity we now possess.
Though the importance of it is evident to all, people often fail to recognize it. This may be because the importance of a resource like the reefs will be felt when it ceases to exist. We often realize the value of an environmental resource when its potentiality to serve us deteriorates. But, Honorable Minister, your decision to hold this workshop is a clear manifestation of your foresight and concern for the sustainability of this vitally important resource.
Even though I was unable to attend the workshop I monitored the proceedings and recommendations, and I am very pleased with its outcome. Mr. Minister, your research team, under the leadership of your Director General has done an excellent job. Its benefits are not only limited to the fisheries industry, but to all users of the reefs. Recommendations of this workshop, reached after much deliberations, would be the cornerstone to develop an integrated system for reef resources management.
When I initially heard about this workshop, I thought it would be a highly scientific and technical workshop, whose recommendations would be understood only by intellectuals of the field. But I am glad it has not been so. The papers presented were diverse and even covered areas like institution and legislation in this area. Participants of the workshop were well represented of the sectors - almost all involved from the private and the public sector were present. Therefore armed with relevant information, guided by experts in the field, this diverse group of participants were able to suggest very practical and constructive recommendations. However, the benefits of these kind of exercises will depend on the willingness on the part of the actors to implement them. There is no doubt that this well planned consultative process will facilitate it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Though our traditional occupations and life style were in harmony with the environment, they are more environmentally demanding now. More and more economic activities are being based on our limited resources. This is because then we depended entirely on the tuna fishery for our living, and due to the very nature of this fishery, the role of the reefs was to supply bait fishes. Because the tuna fishery was relatively small then, the need for reef resources management was less. But today, Ladies and Gentlemen, the tuna fishery has emerged. In addition, a new industry - tourism, which relies largely on the beauty of these reefs has developed, and our dependence on this industry is progressively increasing. Above all others, it depends primarily on conserving the reefs, as it is the main trading asset.
These developments call for better management practices and institutional arrangements, if we are to sustainably use this resource. It is very important that mechanisms are put in place for the development and growth of all these new economic activities. By no means should one develop at the cost of the other, as from a national point of view it is important that our economy is diverse. My belief is that though resource uses of tourism and fisheries differ, they can co-exist. They are not conflicting economic activities, but can complement each other. This exercise is of vital importance to attain these goals. I am confident that as a result of this workshop, a unified integrated reef resource management process will be developed and assist effective implementation of our plans.
I thank the Hon. Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mr. Hassan Sobir for giving me this opportunity to conclude this valuable exercise. I would also like to thank the Director General of Fisheries Research and Development, Mr. Hassan Maniku, and his research team and the consultants who have made this workshop a success.