Oceans Campaigner Greenpeace New Zealand

by Mike Hagler

June 30, 2007

Hi, I’m Mike Hagler. Normally, I’m the oceans campaigner for Greenpeace in New Zealand.   I’ve just joined the Esperanza for the first leg of Greenpeace’s two month long expedition visiting coastal communities along the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea.    I’ll be one of two campaigners on board.   We’ll be meeting with the indigenous people in these communities to listen to their concerns about the threats they perceive to the environment in this remote region and the changes they’re experiencing in their lives as a result.   Climate change, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, the threat of pollution from oil drilling, and proposals to develop a gigantic open-pit coal mine are just a few examples.   All of them pose direct threats particularly to the marine environment upon which indigenous people depend for their food and livelihoods.  

From our side, one of the ideas we’ll be exploring with communities we meet is a proposal to establish Marine Cultural Heritage Zones.   Greenpeace is advocating this concept as a means of preserving and protecting coastal areas that have been of great cultural and spiritual significance to indigenous peoples of the region for thousands of years.   

, where I live, the indigenous Maori people have developed two unique types of special areas established under law in recognition of the importance of the sea to Maori cultural identity and sustenance.    These are called Mataitai and Taipure and their purpose is to protect and preserve marine areas of cultural and spiritual significance to Maori.

 Mataitai reserves are created in areas of traditional importance to Maori for customary food gathering. Within them, tangata whenua (the people of the land) are authorised by the Minister of Fisheries to manage and control the non-commercial harvest of seafood through a local committee.  A tangata tiaki/kaitiaki can recommend bylaws to manage customary food gathering in keeping with local sustainable management practices, and issue customary food authorisations.  Mataitai reserves are permanent, though the bylaws can change over time.   Once a mataitai reserve is established, commercial fishing is not allowed unless recommended by the tangata tiaki/kaitiaki. Maori and non-Maori may fish in mataitai reserves.

Taipure are local fisheries in coastal waters that recognise the special significance of the area to local iwi or hapu, either as a source of seafood, or for spiritual or cultural reasons. Taiapure give Maori greater say in the management of their traditionally important areas. A major difference between mataitai and taiapure is that taiapure allow commercial fishing.   A taiapure proposal from a local community must go through a public consultation process before it is approved. Once set up, a committee nominated by the local Maori community advises the Minister of Fisheries on regulations to control all types of fishing within the local area.

On this great, but threatened, planet of ours, indigenous peoples are facing similar problems and concerns. Local and traditional knowledge must be recognized as an equally valid, scientific method of identifying and solving environmental problems. Thus, with my participation in the Bering Sea 2007 tour, we are beginning a relationship with our northern hemisphere brothers and sisters.

  that’s all for now,   Mike 

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