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Peace Corps Highlights Volunteers Who Promote Vibrant Oceans on World Oceans Day

WASHINGTON D.C. June 6, 2014 – Peace Corps volunteers work with local communities around the globe to protect and preserve the world’s oceans and their resources. In celebration of World Oceans Day this Sunday, the Peace Corps highlights volunteers who help to maintain and enhance the Earth’s 3.5 million square miles of coastal and deep ocean waters through clean energy projects, beach and coastal cleanups, marine conservation efforts and more.

The United Nations first established World Oceans Day on June 8, 2008 to bring attention to the critical role that oceans play in the continuation of life on Earth. Celebrated annually, World Oceans Day raises global awareness of the challenges we face in sustaining our oceans and their resources. Themed “together we have the power to protect the ocean,” this year’s World Oceans Day will include hundreds of events that will celebrate and protect our planet’s oceans.

Below read how a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines is helping his community sustain life in nearby waters to support their food security.

Peace Corps volunteer Tyler Hassig of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., is installing an artificial reef off the coast of Guimaras Island with local fishermen and partner organizations to protect a Filipino coastal ecosystem and enhance food security. Now in place, the reef will increase coral coverage in areas where it has been degraded and revitalize the fish population and surrounding marine life.

“What inspired me most during this project was the concern that the fishermen had for their corals, understanding the vital connection between marine conservation and food security,” said Hassig, who is working toward a master’s degree in environmental studies from the College of Charleston through Peace Corps’ Master’s International program.

Members of a nearby coastal community asked Hassig and his colleagues to assist in deploying the artificial reef at Avilia Marine Protected Area (MPA), which was designated for protection through the work of a Peace Corps volunteer who previously served the community. The local Filipinos actively support the MPA and recently received a donation of 50 artificial reef building blocks, called jack stones, to help revive the local reefs.

“My colleagues and I were given the task of assessing the existing coral reef to determine the optimal placement of the jack stones and to guide the fishermen in deployment,” Hassig said. “This was much more difficult than we anticipated, as the currents were strong and the visibility was poor, making it nearly impossible to navigate underwater. Despite the conditions, we were able to identify the optimal area for the jack stones.”

Local fishermen loaded the jack stones onto bamboo rafts and towed them more than half a mile offshore. With guidance from Hassig and his colleagues, they placed the jack stones in an area ideal for promoting coral growth.

“The hope is that coral cover will now increase seaward of the existing reef, and that the jack stones will improve the health of existing corals by decreasing turbidity and siltation and revitalizing the fish population,” Hassig said.

About Peace Corps/Philippines: There are currently 144 Volunteers in the Philippines working in the areas of education, youth development and environment. During their service in the Philippines, Volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Tagalog and regional dialects as appropriate. More than 8,755 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in the Philippines since the program was established in 1961.

About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences—and a global outlook—back to the United States that enriches the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.

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