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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

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Youth taking a stand for our ocean

Saturday 2 April 2022 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Opinion

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Youth taking a stand for our ocean
Mitiaro ‘Aquaman’ Ants Vavia has been selected to attend Our Ocean Conference to be held in Palau, from April 13 and 14. SUPPLIED/ 21090821

Our ocean is much more than just a big blue space, covering 75 per cent of our planet.

It is a big blue space which is full of life. Life that provides food, food that provides economic opportunities. Opportunities that can include sourcing life-saving medicines.

Our oceans also play a key role in keeping our planet cool. They are the world’s largest carbon sinks, and at the same time contribute over half of the planet's oxygen we breathe.

But our big blue life source is currently under a lot of stress.

Climate change has caused our planet to warm at an exponential rate.

Decade after decade we are seeing significant changes around us.

A warmer planet contributes to warmer oceans. Warmer oceans that are not favourable to the life they hold.

Warnings from world renowned Professor of Biological Oceanography, Lisa Levin have cautioned that “as the ocean warms and loses oxygen, the body size of animals will be reduced, the distribution of fish will change and the surface production of phytoplankton is going to decline”.

In short, less phytoplankton means less oxygen produced, and less fish that we love to eat.

Over fishing has been found to impact entire ecosystems by affecting fish reproduction rates as well as reducing breeding stock. This flow-on effect results in the smaller catch sizes we see today, even affecting other marine life that also rely on healthy oceans, such as sea birds and turtles.

Ocean pollution is out of control and is increasing rapidly. It has been estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Plastics now come in all shapes and sizes. They are very durable and can even break down into smaller bits of plastic. Smaller bits that have now made their way through the food web and into the seafood we love to eat.

A recent study on 22 human subjects at a Dutch university has even found plastic in the blood of 17 of them.

In a call to action to address these current stressors that our blue life source is contending with, the Our Ocean Conference is to be held in Palau, April 13 and 14.

It will bring partners from across the globe to help identify solutions to problems affecting our marine resources, and increase our oceans resilience to climate change.

Representing Mitiaro’s young NGO Te Ngaru Tu o Nukuroa at the Our Ocean conference, we have our very own Mitiaro ‘Aquaman’ Ants Vavia who has been selected to attend the conference through the Our Oceans scholarship process.

He was one of 30 young leaders selected to attend from 490 applications across 110 countries.

Vavia is aiming to share his perspectives of indigenous led conservation initiatives and promote the good work of local groups that are working towards improved ocean health.

In the lead up to the conference, Cook Islands will be hosting an in person watch party and discussion on April 6 from 2.45pm to 5pm at the University of the South Pacific.

The virtual watch party will feature young ocean climate activists from around the Pacific.

The youth will look to identify solutions, challenges, priorities and opportunities to address the ocean climate crisis with recommendations that will be taken to the conference.

The seven panelists include Brianna Fruean of Samoa and New Zealand who recently delivered a powerful speech at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Our own Alanna Smith from Te Ipukarea Society is also one of the panelists.

Following the virtual watch party there will be an open discussion facilitated by a Cook Islands National Youth Council rep to discuss those calls to action.