One of the first delights I first discovered when I first visited Palau in mid-2000 was that similar to Papua New Guinea, storyboards – carvings etched in wooden slabs depicting stories / myths / legends – were also a traditional icon here.
On the other hand, kava (Piper Methysticum) a specially prepared brew associated with traditionally celebrated events in my home country of Fiji is another such traditional emblem that has traversed national boundaries and is also used in the ‘South’ of the Pacific eg Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa while it can also be found up on the ‘North’ of the Pacific and is known as “sakao” in the Federated States of Micronesia. Myths, legends, food, language, phrases, ancient feuds, alliances and blood ties all bind us in the Pacific.
These are a few of the telling examples of how cultural emblems have and continue to traverse the vast large ocean states in the Pacific region, transmitted by our forbearers journeying the waves on the ecosystem rich seawater medium of the superhighway of our oceanic realm.
An intuitive bond with our oceanic superhighway of which I am a proud descendent, is etched in Pacific DNA, just as histories and folklore are etched in the storyboard wooden carvings in Palau and Papua New Guinea.
While the distances spanning each Pacific Island Country is enormous, in a paradoxical twist of divine providence our oceanic realm also binds us. It is a common denominator that constantly warrants our guarded attention.
Our Western and Central Pacific ocean space and all the rich biodiversity that is in it is also innately understood as a shared resource of which we are mere custodians. We do not and cannot “own” our natural surroundings but we use what we have with the next generation in the front and centre of our decisions. This deep-rooted awareness is another mandatory genetic etching in Pacific DNA.
The regional tuna fishery highlights another common denominator that is central to our economies and the only way Pacific Island economies can manage it sustainably and equitably, for the primary benefit of coastal resource custodians in the first instance, is through regional solidarity. This innate understanding was not lost on our Pacific Island Forum leaders who in 2007 mandated their reaffirmation of “the importance of fisheries to the economies of all Pacific” and that regional solidarity “among Forum member countries in managing the region’s tuna stocks” was critical.
With all that, Greenpeace’s latest Asia Pacific expedition is seeing, finding, doing and exposing out on the water and on supermarket shelves, far away from the dry fisheries policies developments is testament to our support of the rallying call for regional solidarity. When Pacific region tuna negotiators plead for parity in their development aspirations, it does not mean a re-jig of the ‘pay, fish and go’ paradigm. To get there, we need to halve the fishing catch of big-eye tuna, eradicate the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and re-close the pirate havens in high seas pockets.
The history we are now carving out on the Pacific ‘Storyboard’ of our Oceanic Realm where tuna is concerned must be one of solidarity, resoluteness and sustainability, as Pacific Island leaders have mandated. And quickly. The Pacific owes it to its descendants who unwittingly inherit the results of our decisions.
Join us on our journey and take action to save our oceans.
Seni Nabou is the Pacific Political Advisor for Greenpeace Australia Pacific.