Located in the pristine waters of The Coral Sea, the Conflict Islands comprise of 21 untouched islands and boast the most extensive biodiversity and coral reefs in the world.
With a third of the world’s species of marine fish, the Conflict Islands are home to everything from the tiny ghost pipe fish to the huge manta rays and tiger sharks. The 21 uninhabited tropical islands surround a spectacular lagoon and are currently under consideration for a World Heritage Marine Site. Among the group of islands, Irai Island has been found to have the second best coral in the world with the most number of species noted in a single dive – a diver’s absolute dream!
The main island, reserved for the owners guests features Club House, six beachfront bungalows and runway capable of landing short-haul flights. P&O cruises started visiting Panasesa Island in 2016. Activities on offer include diving, kayaking, sailing, boating and nature encounters. 80 miles due East of Papua New Guinea, the Conflict Islands are as little as four hours from Sydney and accessible by private charter from Port Moresby or boat transfers from the Milne Bay capital, Alotau.
The work of the Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative (CICI) began in 2017 and it was established as a charitable trust in 2018 to garner financial, human and other support to protect and conserve the natural environment of the Coral Sea and The Conflict Islands group with its surrounding and connected marine habitat.
Realising that the Conflict Islands was a pristine coral reef habitat with many endangered species relying on its persistence, atoll custodian Ian Gowrie-Smith set out to protect and conserve this ecologically important ecosystem. Continuing environmental crisis, including anthropogenic climate change and the unregulated, illegal harvesting of endangered turtles and sharks, led Gowrie-Smith to conclude ” Doing nothing is simply no longer an option!”.
Vision and purpose
Our purpose is:
To protect, conserve and enhance the natural environment, habitats and species of the Coral Sea with a particular emphasis on the area within and around the Conflict Islands region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), and the roles this region plays in its connectedness to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) through our joint sharing of the Coral Sea, and
To conduct research and education about the natural environment around the Conflict Islands and its connectedness through migratory marine species to the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.
We want to achieve this purpose through continued enhancement of our conservation initiatives, including:
The conservation of endangered marine turtles, sharks and rays in the North Coral Sea, many of which are common and in some cases migratory between PNG and the GBR;
The conservation of coral reef habitat that are common to and have connectivity between PNG and the GBR;
The encouragement of marine biodiversity through the Coral Sea and in particular the potential to seed the northern reaches of the GBR from the Conflict Islands by protecting them;
Education, awareness, empowerment and training of local communities to protect their natural environments, including through beach clean-ups and the prevention of rubbish, particularly plastics, being disposed of in the ocean;
Implementation of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAS’s), within the Coral Sea and the waters of Milne Bay
In line with the goals of the 2017 Commonwealth Blue Charter, the Blue Economy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), to work with local land and sea owners and the Governments of PNG and Australia for the sustainable use of ocean resources, whilst preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.
Our goals call for sustainable ecological and economic conservation and management arising from a concerted and passionate effort from all our affiliates and partners.
We work in partnership with a local PNG company, The Coral Islands (TCI), on the delivery of the conservation and education initiatives in the Conflict Islands. CICI plans to become a world-renowned conservation organisation by establishing itself as a registered charity and registered environmental organisation.
CEO and Atoll Custodian
The Conflict Islands are privately owned by British-based Australian, Ian Gowrie-Smith and his family. They are part of an elaborate plan to create a legacy of protected wilderness’ around the world. With internationally renowned success as a global entrepreneur, Ian Gowrie-Smith is passionately dedicated to ensuring the centuries’ long protection of the Conflict Islands.
Christine Hoff- Australian Director
I’m an adventurous spirit with a goal to make a difference. As a marine scientist, I’m motivated to conserve and protect the greatest natural resource on Earth – our marine environment. It’s not a job; it’s a passion.
I work with a diverse team – not just WWF staff but people on the ground. I specialise in threatened species conservation by bringing people together to research, manage and advocate for a healthier marine environment and to reverse the trajectory of turtle and dugong populations racing towards extinction. I try to communicate our conservation impact to bridge the gap between good science, people, and policy within the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and at an international level.
I’ve travelled extensively, researching dolphins and whales in the US, and Australia. Stemming from my background in coastal and marine planning and policy, I bring to WWF project management, research and monitoring skills, and the design of conservation and community-driven initiatives to hopefully make a greater conservation impact.
If I’m motivating people to make a change then I’m doing my job, the work of WWF and other conservation movements – helping to save marine turtles and dugongs.
The important thing is that I know we’re making a difference for our great-grandchildren so they have a healthy natural environment to depend on and the species and places we love to enjoy.
Chris Barter - Australian Director
Chris Barter is a Managing Director at King River Capital, a venture capital fund based in the US and Australia. He spent the first 19 years of his career at Goldman Sachs (1993-2012), based in Frankfurt, London and Moscow. From 2007 to 2012 he was the CEO of Russia and CIS responsible for the securities, investment banking and private equity investing activities. In that role, Mr. Barter built out the Firm’s bank and broker-dealer operations and established many of its key business and political relationships. He also led many of Goldman Russia’s landmark investments in the technology and financial services sectors. Prior to this role, Mr. Barter was co-Head of the European Financial Institutions Group in the Investment Banking Division. While in this role, he co-founded a fund management business which today commands a multi-billion dollar market valuation. He was named a Managing Director in 2000, made Partner in 2004, and served on the Firmwide Growth Markets Operating Committee.
Prior to co-founding King River Capital, Mr. Barter and partners launched two fund management platforms that collectively raised >US$600M. Since leaving Goldman he has focused on deploying capital as a dedicated global venture capital investor. He has led investor syndicates in multi-stage software ventures via CKA Capital and other entities resulting in 28 early to mid-stage investments in verticals including Fintech, AI enabled businesses, Data Analytics and Digital healthcare. His portfolio includes a number of tech Unicorns (including companies like Flipkart, DiDi, Palantir, Wish, Ola, and Meituan). In this capacity, he has lent portfolio companies strategic support in the areas of business development, capital raising and market expansion strategy.
Mr. Barter has a long-term track record of building profitable businesses and generating strong portfolio returns. His global VC fund, founder and financial institution networks in Europe, the US and Australia have provided effective sourcing channels.
He serves on the boards of Ariadne Australia (listed investment manager), CNG Fuels (UK energy infrastructure), FinClear (Australian financial services), WarChild Australia, and on the advisory board of GreenSync (Australian energy SaaS). He also serves on the President’s Leadership Council at Brown University.
Mr. Barter obtained a BSc in Physics from Brown University (1990) and an MSc in Physics from Harvard University (1993).
Sandrina Postorino- Australian Director
Sandrina is Managing Director of Crissan Property Pty Ltd, a property investment and development company operating in NSW and QLD, and Trinity Ventures, which invests in unlisted high-growth companies, focussing on Seed and Series A rounds.
She started her career as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and worked for a number of large Australian and international corporations, including Westpac, TABCORP and Macquarie Group in corporate strategy design and implementation.
Since 2015, Sandrina has been a committee member of Sydney Angels Inc., and she also serves on a number of Not-For-Profit boards, including Take 3 for the Sea, and the Rona Ellis Foundation.
Sandrina has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Wuerzburg in Germany and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Cornell University in the USA. She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).
Sandrina is also a passionate scuba diver and ocean lover.
Fiona McCuaig - Australian Director
Fiona has recently worked for the reputable Australian Marine Conservation Society in the campaign to establish a Marine Park for Sydney. She has worked in property development for twenty years, and always weaved in wildlife and marine conservation throughout this time. She spent seven months volunteering in Africa, America and Sri Lanka in wildlife rehabilitation, volunteered in the London, Beijing, Amsterdam and Taronga zoos and was head of the youth committee for the Foundation for the National Parks and Wildlife. Fiona was a full-time volunteer for Sea Shepherd for two and a half years – she went on four dangerous campaigns including three anti-whaling campaigns in Antarctica and the Faroe Islands and volunteered in America doing television and radio media for the discovery channel called Whale Wars. Fiona has strong financial credentials and has operated several businesses. She will primarily work with Ian Gowrie-Smith on the financial management of the Conflicts Island Conservation Initiative to achieve the desired results.
Hayley Versace - Project Manager
Conservation and the beauty of the underwater world has been been the driving force behind Hayley in all of her endeavours. Since graduating high school and going to James Cook University to study marine biology an zoology her life has revoloved around the oceans.
Working for 13 years as a dive guide, skipper and marine biologist in various locations around the world, from humpback whales in Tonga to whale sharks in Tofo, Mozambique and the macro life of Sipadan marine park Hayley has been lucky in her life's marine encounters.
After starting and running her own successful underwater production company with her husband Ed, Migration Media- Underwater Imaging for 5 years on the Ningaloo reef it was time for a change and to start giving back to the oceans who had supported her through out her career.
Given the opportunity to start and develop The Conflict Island's Conservation Initiative in a remote area of the world like Papua New Guinea, with the full support of IGS, where she had worked in previous years was an opportunity too good to be true. Already having witnessed the devastating effects outside influences and environmental pressures have in this area the understanding of what was needed to be accomplished was clear.
Dave Thomas - Dive Instructor
Dave was born in Tufi hospital in Oro Province in 1988. he completed his year 10 schooling in 2002, and the returned to his parents. He start job training with Papindo Trading, working as a shop assistant. this wasn't for him, so he returned to Tufi and worked along side his father at Tufi Dive Resort driving boats and learning the dive trade.
in 2005 he started working at Airways International as a divemaster,bar tender and waiter. This opened Dave up to the ecotourism business where he then started to work for scuba diving liveaboards
Dave has worked for the Conflict Islands since 2016 as a Dive Master and since our conservation program began he has been an important person in running logistics and diving. Certified as a PADI Diving instructor in 2017 he loves teaching people how to scuba dive, introducing them to his underwater world.
Daves wants to help teach the next generation so they will be willing to take care of our marine life here in The Milne bay Province
Steven Amos - Project Supervisor
Steven Amos, 30, married with four children, two boys and two girls, from the Ewau (Eagle) clan on Panaeti Island, from the West Panaeati Ward, of the Lousiade Local Level Government in the Milne Bay Province.
After completing grade 10 at the Misima High School in 2009 and not securing any job opportunity nor pursuing further tertiary or technical education, Steven returned home and lived a normal village life.
This farming and fishing life soon changed when he first joined the CICI to do marine conservation work on October 28, 2017 as a volunteer. “I was in the village, when the CICI Marine Manager, Edward Cardwell, Hayley’s husband came around with other Panaeti CICI staff to the village and asked me if I was interested to do a voluntary job with them. I accepted the offer without thinking that my choice at that time would take me this far,” Mr Amos said beaming with smile.Since joining CICI he gradually worked his way up to be the Turtle Nursery and Project Supervisor. As a supervisor he guides the volunteers to do turtle tagging and nest relocation.
Martha Eimba - Marine Biologist
A Papua New Guinean National, Martha is a mix parentage of Milne Bay and East Sepik but was born and brought up in Milne Bay Province. After Graduating from Cameron High School in 2014 Martha attended The University of Papua New Guinea and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. During my undergraduate studies I volunteered with a number of Non-Government Organisations such as the PNG Cancer Foundation and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Papua New Guinea (RSPCA PAPUANEW GUINEA)
Martha gained an interest in Turtle Conservation when she first Interned with the Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative in 2018 for the turtle tagging and turtle monitoring program then as a Team Leader for the Sea Women of Melanesia Training Program facilitated by the Coral Sea Foundation in partnership with Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative
Martha is a certified Scuba Diver and a Blue Pioneers Program Participant, having undergone a two weeks professional training on sustainable management practices in Ocean Conservation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey Bay, California, USA.
“I grew up along the coastal areas in my home province of Milne Bay so it was natural for me to develop an interest in ocean conservation. Seeing the diversity of life in marine ecosystems and the impacts of poaching and overfishing made me realise that we need to educate our people about the importance of marine ecosystems and how we can sustain these fragile ecosystems in the long run”