Retired university lecturer, Doctor Joeli Veitayaki says policies and international agreements must not remain meaningless on paper but must actively improve the lives of rural communities, who are frequently marginalized.

In his presentation at the inaugural Pacific Conference on Ocean Science and Management in Nadi, Dr Veitayaki also stressed on the importance of traditional knowledge when discussing ocean management.

“We now have to try to use the best of our skills, traditional and scientific to find solutions that work for us. That is the challenge,” Dr Veitayaki said.

“For me, just talking, having the policies, having international unless it touches the lives of men and women who live in rural areas of the region, often without any voice. “Cultural heritage, while it is important for us to rely on it, it has been tailor made by our people to suit the environment in which we exist.  Unfortunately, we now often put it aside because of newer technologies that have come. 

He added: “If we were to go on a partnership or collaborative process, do not forget, Pacific Islanders have always lived here. In addition, that body of knowledge is time tested and is what allowed them to live in the Pacific world.”

Dr Veitayaki also spoke on the importance of community conservation and that it must be done simultaneously with development. A lot of villages across Pacific, he said were in danger of being taken off the map because sea water was continually advancing.

We need to make sure we address these issues.  So, you need to reach out to our people. We cannot do it ourselves. We have to make sure we engage those that actually own the resources. We use local knowledge to find solutions.”

The conference which ends on Friday features 155 speakers and over 200 participants.

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