At FestPAC, a call to preserve the ocean that separates — and connects

Cook Islands Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton

All of the 28 nation’s participating in 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture on Oahu are separated by miles of ocean. That same ocean, they say, connects them. 

That’s why they’re working to protect the precious resource — before it’s too late. 

“The ocean is the most important place in the world,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and chief navigator. 

“If we are gonna start talking about climate and food and all these other things, you have to understand you have to protect this. 

“If it’s the most important place in the world, it must be the most wealthiest place in the world.” 

As an example, Thompson refers to a body of water that links all participating FESTPAC nations

“If you see Rapa Nui way to the east by Chile, there’s a 450-mile span of high seas, but when you get to the Karen, those islands, you can go all the way to Taiwan and you are in protected waters.” 

FESTPAC delegates agree world leaders need to recognise the need to preserve the great bodies of water that islanders depend on to survive. 

“We grew up, not knowing anything else. just look at the ocean around us. So it’s vitally important to us and this is our livelihood, said Billy Kuresa, a native of the island nation of Tokelau. 

Joe Tiira, of Kiribati, added: “We live near the ocean and depend on it.” 

It’s for this reason that Thompson believes it is imperative for all island nations to work together to protect this precious resource. 

“What if we came together to protect them? I promise it will change your economy, I promise it’ll change your way of life,” he said.