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Year of the Reef

International Year of the Reef in Review  –  This is it! The International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR) will end this month after a year-long campaign of events and initiatives hosted by governments, individuals, corporations and schools world-wide to promote coral reef conservation. Although this marks the end of a very successful IYOR, efforts will continue here and around the world to save one of the planet’s most important habitats.

The first International Year of the Reef (IYOR) was declared and implemented in 1997 by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) in response to the increasing threats and loss of coral reefs and associated ecosystems around the world. Ten years later, there remained an urgent need to increase awareness and to take further action. With this in mind, ICRI and its members designated 2008 as the International Year of the Reef during its General Meeting in October 2006.


Over the past year, activities ranged from photo contests and underwater clean ups to “Reef Fest” (www.reeffest.org), unique music and arts festivals focused to raise money and awareness for reef conservation.  The largest event was the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida that drew over 6000 scientists, managers, students, journalists, politicians and interested persons from 90 countries across the globe to present and discuss everything reef-related from ground-breaking research to the various management strategies that work to protect coral reefs. (For information and links to some of the presentations see: http://www.nova.edu/ncri/11icrs/).


The BVI has been one of many countries to participate and contribute to IYOR. The year started off with the Cabinet approving the BVI Protected Areas Systems Plan 2007-2017. This plan includes areas that will be declared protected under either the National Parks Act 2006 or the Fisheries Act 1997. Protection includes 30% of each marine habitat type, one of the most aggressive attempts in the Caribbean to protect valuable marine resources.


In February, the BVI Marine Awareness Guide was launched and distributed to all the charter yacht companies as well as schools and several hotels. (If you would like a copy, the Conservation & Fisheries Department has some left!) Since March, articles were written for this magazine as well as several newspapers and can be viewed at www.bviyg.com).  A photo contest was also held in which the winning photos will become a 2009 BVI postal stamp. (The photos in this article are some of the entries.)  The year ended with the launch of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network’s “Status of the World’s Coral Reefs 2008”.



So, what’s next? Just because 2009 hasn’t been declared anything special, coral reef conservation will not end at the end of the year, in fact it will continue for years to come. You too can continue this effort by participating in local conservation programmes such as beach and underwater clean-ups, using “green bags”, or even something as simple as picking up the new Marine Awareness Guide – coming soon! 


The International Year of the Reef 2008 is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and threats to their sustainability, and to motivate people to take action to protect them.

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