We need to wake up and see why the ocean is so valuable to us all

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The facts are clear. Samoa and her Pacific neighbours occupy the biggest ocean in the world. In fact, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.), the Pacific Ocean covers 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, making it the largest water mass on the planet. 

With a surface area of more than 60 million square miles, N.O.A.A. says the Pacific Ocean is larger than the landmass of all the continents combined. That’s quite something, isn’t it? 

Which raises a question; while all the concern lately has been about the deteriorating state of our environment, mostly land masses, looking at these facts and statistics, should we not be more concerned about the state of our oceans? Should we not be focusing more on ensuring the state of our oceans is healthy and that we reap the benefits that the ocean offers to us? 

These are questions we should be talking about today. They are relevant and timely. We say this because it is undeniable our existence as Samoans and Pacific Islands is inextricably and relationally linked to the oceans. We are the ocean; the ocean is us. Our languages, cultures, traditions, beliefs, survival and sustainability depend on the oceans.

But to fully benefit from the ocean, we need to be doing our part to look after it.

We need to be better caretakers and guardians of what has been given to us. You see we cannot ruin the ocean and expect it to be good to us. It doesn’t work like that.

During the celebration of Oceans Day last week in Samoa and all over the world, a lot was said about what we can do to protect our oceans. At Lefaga, Moata’a and other places where Oceans Day events were held, it was great to see people of all ages come together, united for the purpose of looking after our oceans.

The Government, development partners, villages, organisations and everyone took part. The most important part is that young people learnt so much about why the ocean is valuable. 

The fact is mankind hasn’t been kind to our oceans at all. Like the deteriorating state of our environment, we are paying for years and years of maintaining a negligent attitude towards the oceans. For years, man has been taking it for granted, not caring at all about the damage being inflicted by reckless exploitation and abuse of it. 

Today, those actions have come back to haunt us in a big way. Here in this part of the world, the most serious consequence of them all is rising sea level threatening to bury low-lying atolls. We are seeing this in many parts of the Pacific. 

The number of our marine resources, including the seafood we desperately need for survival, is also depleting as coral bleaching and oceans acidification become considerably worse. At the end of the day man is deprived of our source of sustenance. 

Which means urgent action is needed and that involves everyone. Yes, you and me. We all have a part to play. One of the biggest problems is the amount of trash that ends up back in the ocean. 

We’ve got to think twice about those plastic bags, straws and all the styrofoam plates we casually discard. We need to start thinking about the little things we do that end up back in the ocean, killing our marine life and polluting our source of food and sustenance. We’ve got to do a better job looking out for our oceans.

On the international front, our leaders have got to be strong. While the Pacific population is relatively small compared to the amount of ocean we have, our people are being robbed of what is rightfully theirs. Some of the bigger nations are raping us of our marine resources while we look on. This coupled with corruption and susceptibility of some of our leaders to bribes and whatnot, our future, our oceans are surely under threat.

We need to wake up and see the reality. With World Oceans day still fresh at the back of our minds, today is a good time to start changing our mindsets about protecting and making sure our future generations will still be able to enjoy the ocean, just as it was passed to us by our forebears. 

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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