Nature & Parks

Report of the International Coral Reef Initiative(ICRI) -- Second Regional Workshop for the East Asian Seas

[International Cooperation] Report of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

I. Symposium

February 16, 1997

1. Opening Addresses

  • Ms. Michiko Ishii, Minister of State, Director General of the Environment Agency, Government of Japan
    At the beginning of the International Coral Reef Symposium, Ms. Ishii thanked the audience for attending the event. She emphasized the unfavorable status of coral reefs, the importance of preserving coral reefs, and the significance of holding such international conference. She informed the audience that the Japanese government joined other countries in launching the International Coral Reef Initiative in accordance with the bilateral Japan-U. S. Common Agenda, and that ICRI serves as the fundamental framework for Japan to devote its efforts to promoting sustainable utilization of coral reefs in East Asian Seas. Ms. Ishii further explained that this Okinawa workshop would be the second workshop following the first one held in Indonesia the previous year and expressed hope that the symposium would provide the opportunity for participating nations to gain more knowledge about coral reefs. The address was closed with an appreciation note to the host prefecture Okinawa and the concerned agencies.
    The text of Ms. Ishii's statement is attached as Annex I of this report.
  • Mr. Masahide Ota, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture
    Mr. Ota expressed gratitude from the host prefecture to the audience and the staff of the concerned agencies for attending the International Coral Reef Symposium. He provided a brief overview of Okinawa by explaining its geographical location and climate, its rich biological diversity in corals and related organisms of more than 99% of reef species housed in the seas around Okinawa, its culture as an island surrounded by coral reefs, as well as its history. He then noted the significance of Okinawa as the host of this international workshop, in which the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs would be discussed. He expressed regret that Okinawa's coral reefs in recent years have been degraded by environmental deterioration induced by various factors, and that no prefectural measures taken against such factors have had much success. He wished success of the workshop, and he concluded his speech by thanking the Environment Agency and other concerned agencies for their efforts in organizing the workshop.
    The text of Mr. Ota's statement is attached as Annex I of this report.

2. Keynote Lectures

  • Dr. Richard Kenchington, ICRI Coordinator
    Dr. Kenchington first thanked the hosting agencies and went on to describe the present status of coral reefs in the world. He pointed out that fish catch has stagnated.
    He explained that anthropogenic activities have seriously depreciated and destroyed coral reefs and related ecosystems, resulting in an economic crisis. He emphasized that the problem should be solved by taking the "action" proposed by ICRI, which is supported by governments and international agencies. He provided background information by recounting ICRI's achievements such as adopting the "Call to Action" in Dumaguete City, Philippines, adopting the "Framework for Action," and raising awareness of the importance of coral reefs conservation through programs offered at many regional workshops. The concept of ICRI was developed in the United States and further developed at the Conference of Small Island Developing States in Barbados. The ICRI is founded on four fundamental objectives, namely, integrated coastal management, capacity building, research & monitoring, mechanism for reviewing the effectiveness of management.
    Dr. Kenchington said that the immediate tasks for the year would be to promote various programs to conserve coral reefs, increase awareness of local communities in each region, and establish a global coral reef monitoring network. Another immediate task, he said, would be to develop human and financial resources, determine priorities, plan programs and projects, and act on them.
    He advised to first determine the program priorities for coral reef conservation and then discuss strategies to obtain financial resources. He believed that the priorities should be based on a long-term perspective with a comprehensive coverage of the ambient ecosystems and related organisms. He pointed out that the workshop should aim at accomplishing these tasks.

    Dr. Makoto Tsuchiya, Professor, University of the Ryukyus
    In his lecture, Dr. Tsuchiya emphasized the importance of understanding the coral reef ecosystem in order to answer the question "Why is preservation of the coral reef ecosystem necessary?"
    He said that coral reefs have seven primary functions: 1) fishing grounds, 2) medium for the coexistence of diverse species, 3) environmental purification, 4) landscapes, 5) disaster prevention, 6) intermediary in the recycling of carbon dioxide, and 7) site for education and research. He said that the function of the coral reef as fishing ground was the most important due to its economic significance, and that a well-protected environment that facilitates the coexistence of a variety of organisms in coral seas was necessary to ensure stable fish catch.
    He explained the mechanism using lobsters as an example to illustrate the relationship between stable harvest and protection of the habitat to provide an extensive range of food supply.
    To illustrate the mechanism of environmental purification-another function performed by the coral reef, Dr. Tsuchiya explained that there are organisms living in reefs that feed on plankton or toxic substances, and that corals protect them by excreting mucus to cover them when eroded red soil flows into the sea. The mixture of mucus and silt (sand) provided the food for marine animals (who filter the sand in digestion). Coral reefs also take in carbon dioxide and accumulate calcium to form reefs, which would eventually house diversified species and become rich fishing grounds.
    He used the examples of reforestation in Erimo-Cho (Hokkaido), Berded Goby in Okinawa, and some protected areas in Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef to emphasize that conservation of coral reefs should be comprehensive and should integrate with the conservation of land-based ecosystems such as forest and river.
    In closing, he said the only solution for coral reefs in Okinawa is to develop effective land utilization plans and to work toward peaceful coexistence between man and nature while taking into consideration different perspectives.

3. Panel Discussion

  • Dr. Kenji Konishi, coordinator of the symposium, introduced the panelists: Ms. Kim Looi Ch'ng, Planning Officer for the UNEP RCU/EAS; Mr. Ikuo Nakamura, Underwater photographer; Mr. Huminori Nishime, Okinawa Environmental Analysis Center; and Mr. Hajime Ikeda, Fisherman of Yaeyama Islands. After introducing the panelists, Dr. Konishi opened discussion and asked the panelists to make comments. The following is a synopsis of their comments.
  • Mr. Ikuo Nakamura: Mr. Nakamura is a photojournalist. He used his works taken in the waters of Okinawa, especially around the Kerama Islands, to show how harmoniously the corals and related organisms are living together and how maliciously development projects are destroying the harmony.
  • Ms. Kim Looi Ch'ng: Ms. Ch'ng pointed out that sectarianism among governmental institutions is the common problem facing South Asian countries, making the approach to coral reef conservation unfocused and fragmented. She then used slides to introduce the approaches that UNEP used to help regional programs.
  • Mr. Fuminori Nishime: Mr. Nishime said that development education, environmental education, and technical education are important to promote sensible "utilization and management of coral reefs." He also introduced some local activities and plans, emphasizing the need for participation by local residents.
  • Mr. Hajime Ikeda: Mr. Ikeda said that the outbreak of A. planci and land-based developments have devastated the coral reefs of Okinawa, which once provided rich fishing grounds. As a fisherman, he considered it his responsibility to protect the coral reefs, and called for the whole nation to share the responsibility to protect this treasure.
  • After the panelists gave comments, the audience was given the opportunity to express their opinions.


Is there a need to educate the officials of national and local governments who are engaged in developmental works?
Is there a need to develop some educational programs on the conservation of coral reefs, which are to be passed on to the next generation?
Dr. Kenchington:
It is necessary to develop capacity building programs as well as educational programs through the international network to increase public awareness for coral reef conservation.
Ms. Ch'ng:
Ms. Ch'ng explained UNEP's role in educational programs in different regions.
Mr. Nakamura:
Mr. Nakamura said that no tension has been observed between the Okinawa prefectural government and Okinawan citizens regarding the conservation of coral reefs and that it is necessary to increase environmental consciousness from childhood through education.
Political body should be blamed for red soil erosion, and the prefectural government must conduct a survey.
How about a zoning system for using the resource?
An example was quoted in which the construction of a cement plant was canceled because of protest from the local community.
The activities of the World Wide Fund for Nature Japan at Shiraho Beach were introduced.
What is the relationship between over fishing and the outbreak of A. planci in Great Barrier Reef? What is the impact of pontoons on the environment?
Dr. Kenchington:
Dr. Kenchington suggested the relationship of the cyclic outbreak of A. planci and the expansion of the scale of Flowing Runway, which may have influenced the water current.
What about the conservation of tidal zone?
What are the contributions of divers and fishermen to the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef?
Dr. Kenchington:
Dr. Kenchington introduced a successful cooperative system between fishery agents, tourist industry, recreational industry, and state (local) government.
What are educational activities for fishermen in Indonesia?
Dr. Wilkinson:
The fundamental issue depends on each individual and not the government.
How to promote a coral reef conservation activity without placing the first priority on the economy?
Ms. Kin:
Ms. Kin introduced a case in Malaysia.

(After the panelists gave their opinions, the coordinator made a final comment and closed the discussion.)

Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan

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