“We need to stop viewing the ocean as a dumping ground and a place with limitless resources. Our ocean from its greatest depths to the splendour of its reefs has a personality. Our ocean is being abused, disrespected and is under attack,” Evans said.
“Our ocean is calling for help. So just as people who are abused and under attack are afforded rights, we must also afford rights to the ocean.
Evans, who is director of the Marae Moana Co-ordination Office, wants support for a push to give rights to the ocean as a legal entity.
Evans made the appeal when she officially received the Goldman Environmental Prize also known as the “Green Nobel Prize” in the United States last week.
“Our people believe the ocean has a personality we have legends about conversations with sharks and whales, we have a god of the sea that is why it’s no surprise that the prime minister Henry Puna has called for us to explore the concept of the rights of the ocean as a legal entity,” Evans said.
She said it was not enough to establish marine protected areas, to require environmental impact assessment, to adopt law, guidelines and standards.
“Join us in our struggle for ocean rights.”
Evans said the award was an honour and was a team effort.
She acknowledged Kevin Iro, Tou Ariki, Elizabeth Wright-Koteka and PM Puna.
She said: “Without their leadership vision and influence, the Marae Moana would not have been established.”
In acknowledging Te Ipukarea Society she said this was an organisation that worked tirelessly to engage the public to begin asking questions about what they were doing to the ocean.
“Without them, public debate on the issue would have been minor and few would be aware of what is happening to our ocean.”
She said civil society organisations’ (CSOs) suggestions are often shut down, questions are ignored and they are often discredited and insulted, and in some countries their life is threatened.
“This is why the Marae Moana is important, as it brings together government, CSOs, private sector and traditional leaders to tackle ocean issues, everyone has an equal part at the meeting table,” Evans said.
She further acknowledges the traditional leader and the community of the Cook Islands for loving the ocean and for choosing to protect it.
Evans also honoured her parents for the award and her son, Marino Evans, who accompanied her to receive the prestigious award.