It is easy to recognise our deep connection with the oceans, which have sustained and fed our communities for centuries, and undoubtedly many of us share a feeling of longing and awe when we gaze at the beauty of our seas.
But it's also tragic that we can emotionally distance ourselves from the ocean and the great perils it is facing. It’s an apathy that is too often prevalent, even here in Southeast Asia where our seas are facing grave human-made threats of overfishing and pollution.
Southeast Asia has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world's marine ecosystems, which is why so many people in the region live off fish and other marine life. But a majority of our marine ecosystems have been heavily damaged and are no longer able to supply us with sufficient fish to eat.
This is why Greenpeace has joined the region’s struggle to protect its marine ecoystem with the Ocean Defender Southeast Asia Tour 2013; a three-month journey aimed at transforming the way we see our oceans.
In Indonesia, the Rainbow Warrior sailed to Papua and West Papua to celebrate the beauty of forests and seas there, as well as the dangers they are facing. In Jakarta, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on board the ship to express Greenpeace’s support for his legacy of protecting the nation’s biodiversity.
In Thailand, the Esperanza joined communities in Songkla and Prachuab Khiri Khan who are fighting to protect their fishing grounds. The ship also docked in Bangkok to promote the importance of healthy oceans among urban communities.
The ship tour is continuing here in the Philippines, where the Esperanza has just visited Apo Island together with scientists to survey one of the oldest and most successful community-managed marine reserves in Southeast Asia.
More recently, Greenpeace formed a flotilla in the coastal waters of Donsol and marched with more than a thousand people in Bicol province to rally against illegal and destructive fishing.
And today in the Bay of Manila, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace Southeast Asia activists shut down Pier 18, an illegal dumpsite operating on Philippine shores. We did this by securing mooring lines across Pier 18's sea access, preventing the entry and exit of the dump's trash barges.
Security personnel eventually cut our mooring lines used to block the pier and forced their way through the blockade of Greenpeace inflatables by threatening to shoot at peaceful activists involved in a non-violent protest.
But we will continue our efforts to defend the ocean and following the protest, a senator has also vowed to push for an investigation into the dumpsite and to examine what is impeding the enforcement of laws.
These are just some examples of how the Greenpeace Ocean Defender tour has helped highlight the fragile state of our oceans and the need to defend them. It has also shown how we must all share the same aspirations to rehabilitate the region’s seas, because ultimately it’s only our collective resolve to act that will bring about change.
Johanna Carissa Fernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia