Marianas Variety, 21st Jan 2008

Different environmental groups and government agencies gathered on Friday at the SandCastle of the Hyatt Regency Hotel Saipan to declare 2008 as the International Year of the Coral Reef.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Villagomez attended the event, with the chief executive urging the community to become more aware and action-oriented in the protection and conservation of the islands’ coral reefs.

Villagomez said the threat to coral reefs is not only a national or regional concern, but a global matter, especially in light of global warming.

Students, academicians, and other concerned individuals joined the event and got to hear Peter Houk, Division of Environmental Quality’s biologist, John Starmer, Coastal Resources Management biologist, and other invited speakers discuss the importance and possible solutions to the growing concerns regarding the coral reefs of the islands.

The symposium also recognized the medicinal value of reef organisms, and the different threats to coral reefs such as improper watershed development, sedimentation, marine debris, over-fishing, global warming, among other problems.

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans. One of the effects of global warming, according to experts, relates to the evaporation of water — the warming of the air will cause more water to evaporate into the atmosphere.

The participants in the symposium likewise acknowledged the need for an increased public awareness and for greater responsibility in protecting coral reefs for future generations.

The symposium was organized and sponsored by the Coastal Management Resources Office, the Division of Environmental Quality, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Coral Reef Initiative Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Marine Monitoring Program and the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance.

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