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Friday, March 17, 2000

Waikiki Aquarium
enters educational

It joins federal agencies to
protect and preserve Pacific
coastal resources

By Helen Altonn


The Waikiki Aquarium and more than a dozen federal agencies have become partners to protect, preserve and restore coastal resources in the Pacific region.

The aquarium was to be dedicated today as an America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center -- joining 11 other aquariums across the country that educate the public about the importance of protecting the country's coastal heritage.

"The idea was to bring federal agencies together for a common cause, to do good, and to pool their efforts jointly with a local educational center," said Bruce Carlson, Waikiki Aquarium executive director.

"It's a great idea," he said. "We all complained in the past that it sounds like one federal agency doesn't talk to another, and they rarely did.

"For the first time, all have been together in the same room.

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, keynote speaker at today's ceremony, said, "The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center will be a beacon of information about the roles and responsibilities and cooperation among the federal, state and private sectors on coastal ecosystem conservation."

He pointed out that the main Hawaiian Islands and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have about 85 percent of all coral reef areas in the United States.

"The Learning Center will explain to the public the importance of healthy coral reefs, the importance of watershed planning, of restoring native vegetation in critical areas and maintaining healthy wetlands where we have them," Akaka said.

The Waikiki Aquarium, the third-oldest public aquarium in the United States, is operated by the University of Hawaii.

Its education and research programs emphasize aquatic life in Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. It houses about 2,500 animals representing 350 species.

The federal agencies will share their resources with the learning centers, providing speakers, publications, lesson plans, exhibits and films, as well as expertise, technology and funding.

"It's really a feather in our cap that we passed their standards to be included," Carlson said. "Sen. Akaka has been very, very supportive in the whole process in trying to move this along."

The regional team of federal agency representatives met yesterday at the aquarium to discuss projects for the Pacific Coastal Learning Center, Carlson said.

Represented were the departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce, General Services Administration, Housing and Urban Development and Interior, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Parks Service and U.S. Geological Service, and the Air Force, Army, Navy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Joseph Westphal, chairman of Coastal America and assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said the innovative partnership was created "so that all Americans, particularly younger Americans as future stewards of our coasts, can better understand how human activities can help or harm the environment along our shorelines."

Carlson said the agencies in other regions have done such things as remove old dams on rivers and restore the natural ecosystems as much as possible in certain areas.

He said the Waikiki Aquarium already has a presence in the Pacific region, including American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. "This will enhance our ability to provide educational programs and materials."

The Coastal Learning Center designation and federal collaboration also will improve funding opportunities, Carlson said.

Among others speaking at the dedication were Virginia Tippie, director, Coastal America; Michael Davis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Alan Teramura, UH senior vice president for research and dean of the graduate division.

After signing a memorandum of understanding, Teramura and Carlson were to receive a Learning Center Plaque from Davis.

Waikiki Aquarium

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