Fiji’s Minister of Fisheries urged the Pacific community to turn immense ocean challenges into genuine ambition in the efforts toward Blue Pacific.

The onus to take action to protect the Pacific Ocean is on us.

This was the key message of Fiji’s Minister of Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau at the World Ocean’s Day celebrations in Suva, Wednesday.

As stewards of the Ocean, it is the task of individuals to lead and inspire the world “to turn away from the model of development that harms our Ocean and threatens to strip them of our life given resources.”

“The balance between environment and development may be considered novel in most advanced countries. But it is not a new idea to us,” said the Minister.

“This has been our approach in the blue pacific since the very beginning. As large ocean states, the climate, the tides, cyclones, the health of our fish stocks and forest, our rainfall, all define our everyday life.”

World Oceans Day march from Suva Flea Market to Suva Civic Centre, Fiji Islands. Credit: Sanjeshni Kumar/ Pasifika Environews

He said it is important to turn the immense challenges into genuine ambition in the efforts toward Blue Pacific.

“Fiji’s intimate relationship with the Ocean is understood by all. Our Large Ocean, Pacific Island Nations know in all ways that matter most, our beaches, reefs, and forests are not just hallmarks of our way of life but, they are part of our culture, they provide our livelihoods and protection for what nature throws at our people.

“We must collectively work towards gaining global attention to our Ocean’s work and make larger nations realise how important Ocean is to our livelihood and survival.”

Koroilavesau said, “We would want to achieve a nation that centres its development towards the sustainable management and protection of our Ocean and its interconnected resources.”

He reiterated the message from the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Secretary-General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Henry Puna, “The Ocean is us. We are the Ocean”. 

“Protecting the Ocean is not just a community or a group approach, it needs the support of everyone because it affects everyone.”

Reverend Dr Upolu Luma Vaai before commencing the prayer for the World Ocean’s Day celebration said the voices of youth chanting “I am the ocean” during the march raised some serious questions for everyone.

“If we are the ocean, therefore, would you like other people to threaten and destroy us? If our children say that I am the ocean, would we destroy them?”

Kids from First Steps Learning Centre at World Oceans Day celebration. Credit: Sanjeshni Kumar/ Pasifika Environews

He said, “We have moved away from the narrative of saving the ocean for the future but perhaps more saving the ocean because they are our children.”

The Deputy Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dr Filimon Manoni said people in the Pacific tend to the ocean in times of need.

“The ocean is all we have,” Dr Manoni said.

“For our blue Pacific region, today is more special, as the ocean is no doubt at the heart of our geography, our cultures, and the source of our Orion vitality.”

In line with the vision of the Pacific Oceans Commissioner and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna, the work is underway to revitalise sustainably collective stewardship and action for the ocean forward and under the umbrella of the 2050 strategy.

“We are not only talking about how to ensure the ocean is sustainably managed but at the same time conserve for you, your children and for generations to come. There is no contradiction between sustainable management and use in a wise way of your oceans and resources,” he said.

The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day was ‘Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean.’

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