New Guinea's remote reefs get Aussie health check


10 August 2006

A team of Australian scientists will survey the remote reefs in the northern Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea so we can better understand the marine life of our closest neighbour and help protect it.

"We are surveying one of the richest marine environments on our planet so we are looking forward to making some amazing discoveries," says Dr Alison Green, Senior Marine Scientist with The Nature Conservancy who is leading the survey. "Little is known about the underwater life in this very remote part of the world which is becoming increasingly significant as our marine regions are more threatened."

The month-long survey begins on 1 August and will include reefs in the northern Bismarck Sea about 500 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby. The team will concentrate on reefs in the south of Manus Province, and near New Hanover and Tigak Islands in New Ireland Province. The team expect to dive at about 50 sites to survey corals, fish and commercially important species such as fish and clams.

"The survey will discover if there are any special animals or habitats that we need to protect. This information is vital for government agencies, non-government organisations and communities to assist conservation efforts and better manage these critical resources," said Dr Green.

The survey in Papua New Guinea is one of a series of surveys being led by The Nature Conservancy to better understand marine life and work toward a global network of marine protected areas in the centre of marine biodiversity known as the Coral Triangle. Previous surveys have been conducted in Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Federated States of Micronesia.

The survey team includes Dr John (Charlie) Veron from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Mr Emre Turak who will assess coral diversity, coral reef health and look for new coral species. Dr Veron is a world-recognised coral specialist who has written more than 20 books about corals.

"The Bismarck Sea is inside the Coral Triangle, which is home to almost three quarters of all of the world's coral species," says Dr Veron from AIMS. "I expect we will find coral species that are new to science in this very special region."

Mr Emre Turak is an experienced coral ecologist who specialises in rapid assessments of coral reefs. He will assess the status and health of the coral communities. Turak has undertaken assessments in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and throughout Australia.

Dr Gerald Allen from the Western Australian Museum will also take part in the survey and get an accurate count of coral reef fishes of the region. Dr Allen is a world expert on coral reef fishes and has been diving for 5 years and spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. He has written more than 20 books about coral reef fishes.

These visitors will complement work by a local team who will survey commercially important species including clams, bĂȘche-de-mer and fishes.

The survey is being led by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and National Fisheries Authority of Papua New Guinea.

Media Contacts:

Dr Alison Green , Senior Scientist, Marine Conservation Program
Asia Pacific The Nature Conservancy, Brisbane
Phone: 073214 6902 or 0408 72493
Email: agreen@tnc.org

Wendy Ellery , AIMS Media Liaison
Phone: 07 4753 4409
Mobile: 0418 729 265
Email: w.ellery@aims.gov.au

Dr Charlie Veron, AIMS, Townsville
Phone: 07 4753 4274
Email: j.veron@aims.gov.au

More information:

The Nature Conservancy
 http://www.nature.org/