Day seven and things today come to a close for our site visit. This has been a tremendous trip, a wonderful opportunity for me to really get to know the Malaysian team, for them to get to know me and understand the motivation behind my interest in seeing Malaysia become TED-compliant, and for them also to get to know the US TED programme and the people behind it. It’s a bit hard to say how incredible this has all been, and I am struggling to find the words to close out this blog and the trip. We had a wrap-up meeting at our condo this morning with Jack Forrester, Marlene Menard and John Mitchell, and when it came time to say goodbye we were all a bit awkward in finding the right words. The final meeting was a good opportunity for Marlene to explain how the US State Department is involved in the TED certification programme, and how it liaises closely with the NMFS folk at Pascagoula for the technical input. She also was very open in explaining how Malaysia has the opportunity to become a partner with the US in the efforts to save sea turtles from shrimp trawling, and how such a partnership may help provide technical advice, and funding even, to see a TED programme mature back home. I am very optimistic after hearing everyone’s points of view today that TEDs are very likely going to be a permanent fixture in our fisheries back home. It is trips like this that catalyse these sorts of efforts, and everyone acknowledged that the face to face meetings, the realisation that there are extensive trials that go behind the TED certification programme, and that people care and are committed to this in the long run, were the most outstanding parts of the visit. As Rosidi summed up the comments from the Malaysia delegation, he noted that ‘…how very impressed we have been with the way the visit was not only about some technical lectures, but about working alongside the US NMFS team to devise actual solutions, and how rewarding that has been’. It was evident the partnership was already a given, now all we need to do is build on this and work toward introducing TEDs bit by bit into our fisheries.
This afternoon we had some down time, and went into town to do some shopping to bring home some small things for our families - our small bit to support the US economy! For me this was a wonderful personal moment, seeing the guys buying things for their wives and children at home, and all of us sharing stories of our own families and giving this trip a personal feel as well as a professional one. We also stopped for a blowout lunch at a great seafood place over in historical downtown Panama City, feasting on oysters, crab cakes, a few more oysters, grilled tuna and shrimp, more oysters, and, and, and…. I think we’re all still reeling from the seafood intake, but it was nice to know we were all enjoying turtle-free shrimp!
Now everyone’s back packing their things, getting ready for a five am departure from our hotel to the airport. It’s a long way home, and I think everyone is looking forward to being back in Malaysia after this week of TED immersion. Me? I’m sitting back with a big smile on my face and a satisfied feeling in my heart, knowing this trip was all worth it. Every single second of it.
I trust you have enjoyed reading about our TED adventures and are as hopeful and optimistic as I am about the Malaysia TED programme. Please don’t hesitate to follow MRF’s Malaysia TEDs programme on our website at http://www.mrf-asia.org