The people of Pacific island communities depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, their sustenance, and their cultural traditions. That means these islanders are also among those who are most threatened by declines in the health of the seas. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy project has long worked with these communities to protect the ocean.
The people of the islands have led the way in safeguarding our planet’s waters. Efforts supported by the islanders of Palau, the Rapa Nui of Easter Island, the iwi of New Zealand, the Chamorros of the Mariana Islands, indigenous Hawaiians, and the community of Pitcairn Island have helped to bring about the designation of more than 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of fully protected ocean in the past decade.
Much can be learned from the work these people have undertaken in partnership with Pew, governments, scientists, and other stakeholders. When Pacific islanders come together, they can share lessons learned and new ideas to help one another. Recognizing this, representatives from islands across the Pacific gathered for two days in early October in Santiago, Chile, just before the Our Ocean 2015 conference coordinated by the United States and Chile. The result was so powerful that they decided to form a community group, Island Voices.
Island Voices brings together artists, educators, former government officials, and traditional Pacific voyagers to support a healthy ocean and thriving communities through creation of large, fully protected marine reserves and efforts to stop ocean pollution.
“Although thousands of miles apart, we are connected by one spirit that seeks to live a healthy lifestyle, and for island people, that begins with a healthy ocean,” said Ann Singeo of Palau, the newly elected chair of Island Voices. “This group of community grass-roots activists will work hard to ensure that future generations will know the ocean like we knew it in our youth.”
The Island Voices members are Alberto Hotus and Simon “Kuchy” Pakarati of Easter Island, Singeo and Joachim “Joe” Reklai of Palau, Diego Benavente of the Northern Mariana Islands, Ito Waia of New Caledonia, Jean Claude Teriierooiterai and Tiffany Laitame of French Polynesia, Larissa Hale of Australia, Russell Amimoto and William Aila of Hawaii, and Shelley Campbell of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
After the group formed, three of its members spoke on panels at the Our Ocean 2015 conference in Valparaíso, Chile. Laitame and Campbell took part in a panel discussing efforts by local communities, and Aila spoke on a panel on the benefits of sustainable management of marine resources.
Looking ahead, members plan to continue exchanging information by visiting one another’s islands to share stories about successful conservation efforts and the best way to communicate on the need to protect the ocean. They also will attend international meetings and use the voices of indigenous artists and educators to influence policy change with governments across the Pacific and around the world.
Please click on the links below to learn more about the Island Voices members’ homelands and the work that has been done to protect their marine environments.