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Joint media release: Marine environment training workshop held for Pacific Island nations

Friday 24 August 2012
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) jointly hosted a workshop in Townsville, Australia from 21 to 23 August 2012 with the aim of increasing protection of marine environments in the Pacific region.
Media Release

Participants from 14 Pacific nations attended the workshop focusing on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs).

“A PSSA is a sea area that needs special protection through action by IMO because of recognised ecological, socio-economic or scientific attributes that may be vulnerable to damage from international shipping activities” said Mr Edward Kleverlaan from the IMO Marine Environment Division.

“Australia is a world leader in protecting the marine environment from ship-sourced pollution and management of shipping traffic to minimise incidents. Experts from Australia and the South Pacific region brought together a range of experience to explore how to address threats from shipping activity in the Pacific marine environment.”

AMSA’s Manager Marine Environment Standards, Mr Paul Nelson, highlighted the importance of hosting the event in the home of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), as the Great Barrier Reef was the world’s first designated PSSA.

The participants, from the maritime and environment sectors of Pacific island nations, shared their skills and knowledge to better protect their marine environments from international shipping activities, including ship-sourced pollution.

This is critical, as marine pollution is a major threat to the region’s oceans, along with climate change, habitat destruction and over-exploitation of marine resources.

Pollution from ships, such as oil spills, garbage, sewage and ballast water discharges, can all adversely affect marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

Collisions and groundings of ships can also damage the marine environment in various ways.

“Protection of our marine environments is vitally important for all Pacific communities,” said Dr. David Haynes, Director of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division of SPREP.

“PSSAs complement marine protected areas and, without this protection, our marine resources may be placed at increased risk from the threat of international shipping.”

The workshop addressed how to document and develop proposals for possible PSSAs in the region, using both practical exercises and site visits to GBRMPA’s Reef HQ Aquarium and the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service (REEFVTS) Centre.

There is currently no PSSA in the Pacific region, however there are around 600 marine protected areas and 28 areas in the region have been identified as ecologically or biologically significant. Some of these have significant international shipping activity and their designation as PSSAs would provide additional protection. This workshop was vital in enhancing regional cooperation to make progress towards identifying and designating PSSAs.

Media enquiries:
IMO: Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on +44 (0)20 7587 3153 / media@imo.org
AMSA Media: 1300 624 633 / media@amsa.gov.au
SPREP: Ms Nanette Woonton: +685 21929 / nanettew@sprep.org