Making the connection between New York and fishing at Luatuanu’u

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It wasn’t that long ago. A story titled “Fisherman worries about future” featured in the Village Voice section of your newspaper generated an interesting discussion about the health of our oceans and the future.

The story in question highlighted the life of fisherman, Lata Asuelu, from the village of Luatuanu’u. 

When the Village Voice team caught up with him, he expressed frustrations about the dwindling number of fish in the lagoon. According to the 59-year-old, he had noticed a marked difference in his catches over the years.

“The sea is not the same anymore,” he lamented. “For us who use fishing nets, now and then we come and go with almost nothing.

 “There’s barely any fish on this side and I think it’s because of a lot of factors.”

He is not a scientist but he suspected that overfishing is one of the problems.

 “The problem with this kind of fishing at night time is that they always dig up corals and everything that are home to all kind of species under the sea.

 “So they benefit from it because they get more fish than they should have but what would that situation leave for us with fishing nets? Nothing.” 

Lata’s concerns are shared by thousands of other people around Samoa who are like him. Keep in mind that in this country, the ocean and fishing are people’s bread and butter. 

It is their livelihoods.

And when developments such as the one Lata is concerned about emerge, it should worry us all.

 “I don’t like this and I’ve always wanted to express a concern on this issue,” he said.  “We all know there are Samoans or most of Samoan families depend on the land and the sea for food and everything else that we need.

 “Maybe just an advice to other fishermen, try to fish without destroying the homes of ocean species because without homes or any corals for these species to stay in, the further they will go away from here and we don’t want that to happen.”

Well that is excellent piece of advice indeed.  All local fishermen should pay attention. 

Mind you, Lata could easily be telling the same thing to a global audience and biggest users of our fisheries and ocean resources who are robbing us of these precious resources.  This week, global leaders are meeting in New York for the United Nations Oceans conference. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is among the Pacific leaders fighting for a better deal in terms of protecting this very important resource for our people.

On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, Tuilaepa is calling the attention of global leaders in New York to address the consequences of “overfishing” at a global scale. He is asking them to deal with climate change and over exploitation of resources. 

Tuilaepa is not alone. On the pages of the newspaper you are reading today, we are dedicating a lot of it to the Pacific’s fight to preserve our oceans.

Why is this important?

Well stories like that of Lata – and many other people - make this issue all the more relevant to us. The ocean represents food, money and livelihoods. We are connected to the ocean in every way. It is why we need to do everything in our power to protect this resource.

The statistics are certainly alarming. The acidity level of the ocean for example has changed  by about 30 per cent since before the Industrial era. According to S.P.R.E.P, the rate of change is “faster than anything we have seen in the past 300 million years.”

This process affects a wide variety of marine animals including some of the seafood we eat. For communities who rely directly on ocean resources for the majority of their livelihoods, these changes are crucial. Lata and the people of Luatuanu’u are among them.

Which brings us to the point that perhaps we should consider ocean acidification as one of the key challenges of climate change. While the U.S. President Donald Trump might deny the existence of climate change, it’s not just the weather we are talking about. It also affects the ocean, our forests and our entire surrounding.

For us in this part of the world, it really is a matter of life and death. When our weather patterns are turned upside down, when our food resources are dried up, we will have nothing left for ourselves. This is not the future we want. 

It is why the noises being made in New York this week are relevant to us, to people like Lata, the village of Luatuanu’u and every Samoan born and yet to be born.

What we need is for the rest of the world to pay attention and help us. We need them to listen.

Stay tuned!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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