The Pacific Ocean is the largest single geographic feature on our planet. It represents half the world’s ocean area, occupies one-third of the earth’s surface, and helps support complex ecosystems, ocean-based economies, and hundreds of millions of people.
That is directly quoted from the Center for Ocean Solutions which is affiliated to Stanford University:
The Pacific is also the engine room of Earth’s climate and the storeroom of its ocean biodiversity.
However, the people from around the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic to Antarctic, from countries populous and sparse, are witnessing a decline of the Pacific Ocean’s vast resources and in the ability to use those resources. Pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, climate change, and invasive species emerge repeatedly as the major causes. These threats interact with each other to damage natural ecosystems, reduce biological and human economic diversity, destroy productivity, and encumber human use of the sea.
(Center for Ocean Solutions, USA)
It identifies the following threats to the Pacific Ocean:
We hope others, in and outside of the South Pacific region, will take up the challenge and write about these threats to our environment and survival, particularly for small island nations. Due to scarce resources and available time, we aren’t able to do justice in covering these stories . Wish we could. For example, do people, other than governments and environmental groups, in the Pacific region realise the impact of overfishing for the region? I think not. What role have island governments played in protecting those assets? Can they? This is a big business story, not just a marine story. Who are the biggest contributors to the depletion of these natural marine resources? And what role is international legislation doing, or not doing, to protect the vast resources of the Pacific Ocean.
To give us a perspective of sizes, look at a map of the oceans of the world. The smallest is the Arctic Ocean, followed by the Indian Ocean, then the North and South Atlantic Ocean. Then there’s the North and South Pacific Ocean. Yes, it is the largest biggest ocean out there. It covers a wider geographical area bigger than all the other oceans combined.
Sunset in Fiji
Amnesty International Public Statement
Fiji: Downward spiral continues for human rights following persecution of prominent human rights lawyer
The Fiji government has started the new year with renewed attacks against people’s right to freedom of expression through threats, intimidation, discrimination, and the cynical use of the law as a tool of oppression.
The persecution, under legal pretexts, of prominent human rights lawyer Ms Imrana Jalal by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) is the latest example of such repression. The prosecution of Jalal has been specifically targeted to punish her for her strong public stance against human rights violations perpetrated by the military since its overthrow of the Laisenia Qarase-led government in December 2006. Read the rest of this entry »
His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi, Samoa’s Head of State receives a Hongi (Maori greeting) from Rangitihi Tahuparae during a Maori welcome ceremony at Government House on December 3, 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand.Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images.
A weekly post on the writings of one of the Pacific most revered scholars and thought leaders:
Climate Change and the Perspective of the Fish
Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi
Head of State of Independent State of Samoa
Stars of Oceania Summit
University of Hawaii
9-12 April 2009
Respecting the sacredness of trees by seeking pardon
In the debate on climate change the role of the trees and the forest as the “lungs of the earth” is critical to the production of clean air. In our Samoan reference trees have a life and soul and so are divine creations. Trees catch airborne pollutants by their leaves and bark, and through their root systems are able to cleanse ground water. They allow us to breathe clean air.
In the Samoan indigenous context if a tree was to be cut down, a prayer chant or faalanu is performed. The word used to describe the cutting of a tree is oia, which derives from the word oi, meaning to cry in pain. This presupposes that a tree suffers pain. The faalanu is performed to seek pardon for causing pain.
In the celebrated story of the canoe-builder Lata (or Rata in other parts of the Pacific), when failing to seek pardon from the spirit guardians of the forest for taking the life of a tree, he was denied use of the tree. In this story Lata was baffled to find that after felling during the day a tree from the forest in Savaii to build himself a canoe, that the next morning when he rose to start working on carving the canoe, the tree trunk was restored to life in its original place.
On the third night of this happening Lata decided to hide during the night to see how the tree came back to life. After felling the tree he hid. Late into the night he saw female spirits encircling the tree, restoring it to life. He approached the spirit guardians and asked why they did this. They told him that he had disrespected them by failing to seek pardon before he fell the tree. Lata apologised and sought pardon. When he awoke the next morning the spirit guardians had carved him a beautiful canoe.
The relationship between man and his environment, between man and his co-inhabitors is based on a spiritual culture that finds affinity and equivalence, balance and harmony, between them. In taking from the environment we are accountable to the environment.
The relationship between trees, animals, ocean and mother earth is one of balance, where boundaries are respected and protected. This is captured in the Samoan saying: e le laa le uto i le maene pe sopo le tai i le eleele (lit. the floater cannot intrude on the function of the sinker, as the ocean cannot encroach on the boundaries of the land).
In our arrogance and greed we have encroached the boundaries of what is right and just. As we search for solutions we must be open to the wisdom of others. What has happened over the years as man has become more knowledgeable through science is that that very knowledge has given us a much greater capacity to abuse the elements and forget the need for harmony.
What we need in our search for balance and harmony is a culture of humility and sharing where arrogance and greed are openly admitted and addressed. This is the first step to healing. Man must have the courage to rise above himself and restore his fatumanava, i.e. the earth in his heart, and to finds ways to connect (metaphorically) with the fish.
I say the fish because I wish to end with a famous story from one of your own, Robert Benchley, who while a student of International Law at Harvard University, made a joke about the perspective of the fish. The story goes that in a final examination Benchley was confronted with the question: Discuss the arbitration of the International Fisheries problem in respect to hatcheries protocol and dragnet and trawl procedure, as it affects (a) the point of view of the United States; and (b) the point of view of Great Britain.
In addressing the question Benchley wrote desperately: “I know nothing about the fisheries problem; and nothing about the point of view of the United States; and nothing about the point of view of Great Britain. Therefore, I shall discuss the question from the point of view of the fish”.
Humour aside, for the climate change debate there is poignancy here in searching for the perspective of the fish. For Samoans there is a sacred essence, equivalence and affinity between man and fish. To find solutions to our current environmental problems we must ask ourselves what it is to be a fish. To do this you must be prepared to enter the mind of the fish, to become them, to live as them, and experience the sacrifice they might have to make in order to survive. To protect the environment you need to be able to respect the environment.
The relevance of the viewpoint of the fish is embedded in the wisdom of Robbie Burns:
Would some power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others [the fish and trees] see us.
Check this out if you’re interested in seeing what the South Coast of Upolu looked like, before what Samoa’s Tourism Minister calls ‘Black Tuesday’, following the 8.3 magnitude strong earthquake which struck 200km from Samoa’s capital Apia last Tuesday.
The quake triggered a tsunami wave up to 7 metres across areas of the island.
Click on one of the following links to watch:
This report from the Cook Islands/PacNews.
15 SEPTEMBER 2008 RAROTONGA (Pacnews) —– One quarter of all birds in the world that face extinction are to be found in the Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand, reports Cook Islands News.
This is according to a 2008 Red List report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in partnership with BirdLife International. The report is issued every four years.
Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project’s Gerald McCormack said the Cook Islands have six unique species of bird, and five of these are on the IUCN list.
They are, from most threatened to least: Rarotonga Flycatcher (Kakerori), Atiu Swiflet (Kopeka), Mangaia Kingfisher (Tangaeo), Rarotonga Starling (I’oi), and Cook Islands fruit-dove (Kukupa).
Mr McCormack said the only non-threatened unique bird is the Cook Islands Reed-warbler (Kerearako/Kaoko). The only unique Cook Islands bird known to have become extinct is the Mauke Starling (Kikoi), which might have still been on Mauke in the 1920s or 30s.
With French Polynesia, the Cook Islands shares two other threatened species, the Blue Lorikeet (Kuramo’o) and the Rimatara Lorikeet (Kura).
The Blue Lorikeet is native to the Society Islands and was introduced to Aitutaki before 1899 and probably early in the missionary period, and the Rimatara Lorikeet, which was reintroduced to Atiu in 2007.
The IUCN list makes “grim reading”, according to Don Stewart, BirdLife International’s regional director for the Pacific (based in Suva), with 1226 species of birds world-wide now threatened with extinction.
The Pacific region, comprised of the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, has the “dubious honour” of having the highest bird extinction rate in the world.
A total of 384 bird species in the region are threatened, with 44 of these (25 percent of the world’s total) classed as critically endangered, meaning they are only one step away from extinction.
Mr Stewart said these figures should be alarming to all of us who live in the region.
“We should be very worried about the extinction of our bird species and should take action to tackle the reasons. The destruction of bird habitats – those areas where birds live – is a particular concern, with deforestation being a key reason in many south-western Pacific countries,” he said.
Mr Stewart said that conservation efforts could make a difference. “We are working with our regional partners to implement programmes to protect endangered species and we have met with some success,” he said.