Dec. 8, 2005 — The tables in the conference room at Palm Courts Harborview Tuesday were covered with royal blue tablecloths; the chairs were sea-green – appropriate colors for a conference on the state of the oceans.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Coastal Zone Management, hosted local students and teachers at Palm Courts for the one-day conference, called "Caribbean Coastal Threats and Protections; Our Oceans: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow."
"People are the problem, so people have to be part of the solution," said Lillian Moolenaar, who coordinated the conference and works in DPNR. Moolenaar said educating youth on water-related problems and solutions was especially important because oceans and youth are both a significant part of the territory's future.
Two students and a teacher from each senior high school and college campus in the territory attended the conference. Guest speakers gave presentations on the environmental legal issues, fish and wildlife in the coastal area, pollution and DPNR's new Clean Marina Program.
Clean Marina Program Coordinator Kent Bernier Jr. said the voluntary marina-based boater education program would encourage boaters to comply with higher-level environmental regulations. Marinas that comply with the higher standards may save money by using more efficient practices and facing fewer penalties for environmental violations. DPNR is also offering awards to marinas that comply with the new program.
"A lot of people know they're not supposed to do things, but they do it anyway," Bernier said.
The students also got sneak previews of two new DPNR television commercials, featuring Captain Clean. The Captain Clean commercials advocate environmentally sound boat fueling and cleaning techniques. The commercials will start airing in January.
Kasim Andrews, an energy development specialist with DPNR's Energy Office, spoke about new ways to use the ocean to generate electricity. Programs using tidal, wave turbines and ocean thermal energy are already successful in Australia. Ocean thermal energy conversion uses energy from the temperature difference between surface waters and deep ocean waters. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Web site, "Just a small portion of the heat trapped in the ocean could power the world."
"We thought it would be important in the midst of the rising costs of petroleum-based fuel," Andrews said.
Some of the students asked questions that suggested the students have dreams of owning their own marina or going into the field of environmental law.
"They're asking a lot of questions," Moolenaar said. "A lot of tough questions."
Ivanna Eudora Kean High School sophomore Gerard Wiley said the speakers held his interest and he was very glad he volunteered to attend the conference.
"I never really studied this, so I thought I'd learn something new," Wiley said. "I'm learning a lot."
Last year's conference led to the development of a few environmental groups at area schools, and students became interested in beach clean-up programs. Moolenaar said she hopes this year's conference will increase the students' interest even more.
Next year, Moolenaar said, the conference will probably be on St. John and may be extended to two days with a field trip.
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