So long Professor Bill

How he went was not in proportion to the huge impact he has left behind is one way of describing the quiet passing away of one of the region’s best marine resource management scientists and champion of local people and local knowledge. Professor Bill Aalbersberg died in Maui, Hawaii surrounded by his family members early this year and we have permissions to share excerpts of this tribute by his former colleagues and friends in Suva.

“Bill has been instrumental in building and enhancing local capacity for natural resource management with innovative ideas such as the recognition of the importance of LMMAs (Locally Marine Managed Areas). This has led to increased support for decentralised management and implementation bodies, which encourage holistic and innovative problem solving of environmental issues by local and externally-based teams. These approaches have successfully achieved natural resource management objectives, as well as garnered further support for local management. For Fiji, this has resulted in hundreds of villages being effectively reached, and stakeholders united.

“Beyond Fiji, the importance of community heart, ownership, and related values is something that Bill continuously emphasised. Bill earned wide respect forhis leadership and understanding of the critical role local people need to play in the sustainable management of their resources, and that successful conservation efforts must be embedded in the context, conditions, and vision of local people. A pioneer of the local management movement, Bill has incorporated “in the field” community work with national and regional networking and advocacy, which has helped elevate LMMAs and the LMMA Network, now an internationally sought-after approach to marine resource management.

“Bill was also a dedicated professor and mentor to students from Fiji and across the Pacific, providing scholarships and education linked with practical work experience. He helped develop the innovative Pacific Islands Community Conservation Course, which has reached over 100 students from 14 Pacific countries, many of whom are in conservation and environment management leadership positions in NGOs and government today.

“Apart from professional impact, Bill walked the talk – spoke the local language, showed concern for the environment and especially the people, and was known for gladly taking the time to sit and ‘talanoa’ over ‘kava’ with the locals, not just to share, but also to listen and learn. He was one to speak his mind when and where needed, and when he has, it is often to encourage simple, inexpensive approaches that can be sustained and replicated easily.”

Rest well Professor.