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By Sangeeta Mangubhai
Pacific Islanders have a deep connection to the ocean that spans millennia. Their ancestors were inspirational navigators who sailed across the Pacific, using their immense knowledge of the ocean, the stars and the elements as their guide.
In the hours before the official opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the Governor of Hawai’i and the Kahanamoku and Paoa families welcomed the Pacific Island leaders from Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia on Waikiki Beach. Together they celebrated the Moana Pasifika Voyage, which is “a voyage for the Pacific Ocean, by our ohana in Hawai’i who sail for action on climate change and a sustainable Pacific Ocean. The voyage delivers the voice of our communities and the lessons learned through our traditional to help chart a course to a safer future.”
This theme came out strongly during the Pacific Ocean Summit and Pacific Island Roundtable event, which highlighted that the health of the Pacific Ocean impacts all of humanity, every ecosystem and every economy. Much of the discussion was about the launching of the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership “to deliver on the extraordinary actions required to avoid the severe impacts from climate change and biodiversity loss,” to help deliver Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
This means taking greater action on climate change, reducing plastics and pollution, building community resilience and knowledge networks, strengthening coastal resilience through the restoration of watersheds, wetlands, mangroves and seagrass beds, and establishing and enforcing protected and other managed areas.
Being around our Pacific Island leaders and colleagues gives me hope. There is a strong sense that we are in the same “vaka” or traditional canoe sailing the same journey, with the same destination, to define a healthy and resilient Pacific. All we need to do is pick up as many people we can along the way and make it a global journey.