Our oceans, our future, our choice

Feature story - 12 July, 2004
He isn't paid for what he does. He doesn't get a uniform. He works alone at night, confronting poachers. Yet Saimone Ratukadreu says he will continue to protect his village's traditional fishing ground for as long as he lives.

Fishing grounds of Namakala village, Fiji Islands.

When Greenpeace crew members visited Saimone in his home village of Namakala on July 12, he showed them the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests license which grants him authority as an Honorary Fish Warden.

Saimone also explained the challenges of his job, describing how the village has traditional practices intended to give fish time to breed and recover.

"Our community has enforced a taboo or 'no-take' zone. But we noticed that spearfishing divers are invading that area. They are stealing from our no-take zone," Saimone explained.

"Early morning at about 2:30 am, I go patrol our fishing ground. Since I don't have an outboard engine and a boat, I have to wait for low tide. They [poachers] usually just run away when I call out."

Saimone took on his role because he was angered by poachers who use methods such as poisoning to capture fish. He tried to stop them, but "they always replied that they would only stop if I was a fish warden," said Saimone, "So I asked my chief if I could become a warden."

"Now, I will be a fish warden until I die."

Local problem, global issue

The issues facing Saimone and his fellow villagers are local in nature, but they are a microcosm of the greater fisheries issues faced by the Pacific Island region - pirate fishing and depletion of finite fish stocks.

The Rainbow Warrior has begun a ten-week Pacific fisheries tour, named Our Oceans, Our Future, Our Choice. The tour kicked off on July 10 as the Rainbow Warrior lay anchored in the port of Suva, Fiji Islands. The goal is to work with Pacific island communities to build protection for their fisheries.

Though the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is one of the world's last healthy fisheries, it is increasingly falling prey to distant water fishing nations and pirate fishing. Within 3-5 years some stocks could be critically overfished.

The tour is all about meeting and listening to islanders. We'll also share with them ideas and expertise on how to crack down on pirate fishing, and get control of the fisheries that are legally under their jurisdiction.

The Rainbow Warrior leaves Suva on Wednesday July 14 for Kiribati. Her tour also includes the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Solomon Islands.

You can read more about Saimone at the voyage weblog.

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