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EDITORIAL SEPTEMBER 2010
The Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA), of
which I am proud to be Chairman, celebrated its tenth anniversary in mid-July
at an inspiring dinner in Brisbane.
AUSMEPA, of course, is one of the now many offspring of the Hellenic Marine
Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA) which was established in Piraeus more
than 25 years ago by a group of leading Greek ship owners.
Their magnificent efforts and great successes inspired the establishment of MEPAs in
Turkey, Cyprus, the Philippines, Ukraine, North America and Uruguay as well as
Australia. Now we have an international co-ordinating organisation INTERMEPA.
HELMEPA was established by the Greek shipowners because they were constantly
being blamed for the pollution of the Aegean Sea. They knew they couldn't possibly be
the culprit if only because most of their vessels never even entered the Aegean.
They commissioned independent analyses to determine the source of the muck -- oil,
plastics, "dunnage", cans and bottles -- in their sea. Those tests showed that nearly 95
per cent of the pollutants were land sourced. Most, in fact, was literally dumped by the
well known "man in the street".
Deciding that the best solution to the problem was education, the HELMEPA board
started working with Greek schools to encourage the children to shame their parents
into better behaviour. At the same time they worked with their crews to encourage
them to take better care of their rubbish. Finally, they persuaded the Greek government
to better enforce their environmental rules and regulations.
This combination of education, encouragement and enforcement worked well. The
Aegean quickly became cleaner and more attractive. The ship owners were praised for
their effective, pro-active approach.
Their counterparts in Turkey and Cyprus soon established TURMEPA and CYMEPA
with identical objectives and using similar programmes. They were almost immediately
So developed AUSMEPA, PHILMEPA and the other MEPAs (With more to come!).
The movement was underway globally under the umbrella of the subsequently
As in Greece, we found in Australia that nothing happens without considerable work
and endless enthusiasm. The first few years were tough. Without help from our Greek
friends and a couple of far sighted government bodies, nothing would have happened.
Now, thanks to enormous effort by all concerned, AUSMEPA is happily afloat and
thriving. We have gained widespread support from the maritime industry including
both local and foreign ship owners. Many other individuals, companies and
organisations are now also providing solid support.
So much so, in fact, that AUSMEPA has become one of the best and most widespread
networking organisations for the Australian maritime industry. This is exactly what has
happened in Greece, Turkey and the other countries.
While we are still behind the Greeks and had a much smaller pollution problem than
them, anyway, we have made very worthwhile progress. Our school and seafarer
programmes are increasingly wide-spread and effective. The word is getting out and
Australians in general are much more careful of what they dump and where.
At the same time, all three levels of government have worked assiduously through
encouragement and enforcement to prevent pollutants from entering the drains and
waterways and, inevitably, the sea. Their efforts combined with those of AUSMEPA and
other groups have made a significant difference.
Based on this progress, AUSMEPA has now agreed to spread the word and encourage
the establishment of similar groups in the increasingly badly polluted Pacific Islands.
We will start working on that shortly.
This will be in addition to INTERMEPA's efforts in Asia where I, in my capacity of
Roving Ambassador, am working to establish MEPAs in a number of countries.
INTERMEPA has already been recognised by IMO and further expansion will
undoubtedly increase its influence there.
So, all is positive and encouraging in Australia and many other parts of the world. It
has been gratifying to see how strongly the maritime industry -- which is not a
significant polluter -- has backed the MEPA concept. They are practical people and they
are generally pleased to support a successful concept.
Our only real disappointment has been the absence of any support from the coastal
and marine tourism people. They are, after all, the sectors that most directly benefit
from clean seas. If you are involved with or know anyone involved with marine or
coastal tourism, please get in touch with the MEPAs. You would be most welcome to
AUSMEPA comes of age
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