It might be more than 4,500kms from the world-renowned diving hotspot of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea to UWA in Perth, but for Melanesian marine biologist Naomi Longa it was a journey well worth making.
Naomi was guest speaker at a special exhibition at UWA's Oceans Institute in July, which was designed to bring attention to the plight of some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs.
The event showcased the works of renowned WA artist Larry Mitchell and underwater photographer Dr Andy Lewis and illustrated the beauty of the islands and reefs of PNG and the coral sea.
Dr Lewis, who is also CEO of the Coral Sea Foundation, told the crowd he and Larry had seen first-hand the impact global warming and other threats were having on this global centre of marine biodiversity.
“The Coral Triangle covers an enormous area of 5.7 million square kilometres but many of the reefs in the western section are already degraded due to overfishing and population pressures,” Dr Lewis told the crowd.
“In contrast, the eastern coral triangle around PNG and the northern Coral Sea is still in relatively good condition, and our aim is to raise awareness of the ecological and social value of this region and to be proactive in its sustainable management.
“This region contains the last great reservoir of ultra-diverse coral reef in the world, yet most of it is remote and rarely visited, and has few functioning marine parks,” he said.
“We work with traditional owners to develop marine reserves that enhance fisheries and ecotourism resources, while improving the basic quality of life of people in our partner villages.”
With a biology degree from the University of PNG in Port Moresby, Naomi is one of the stars of the Coral Sea Foundation’s Sea Women of Melanesia program, and is passionate about protecting her local environment.
“My mission is to help spread the word so that we have the funds and the ability to train other local women in helping to set up marine reserves and save our coral reefs and our many fish species,” Naomi said.
World famous landscape painter Larry Mitchell said he was a marine painter for 25 years before he became interested in climate change ‘almost by accident’.
“I began noticing how it impacted on the small and isolated coastal communities I was working in and realised this was a global issue,” he said.
“Grouping art and science makes sense when you think about it – both are about information and both are about emotion.”
Liz McGrath (UWA Oceans Institute) +61 43 795 509