Friday, October 28, 2011

Care of the ocean

from w
It's good to see a young person committed to something so important as keeping the ocean safe and clean. Duncan is such a person and showing us the way to care for more than just putting bread and butter on the table for a family.
from the Fiji Times today:
Duncan fights for the Pacific
Geraldine Panapasa
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Greenpeace activist Duncan Williams inspects sharks fins onboard Taiwanese longliner, Yi Feng no 816, on October 14. Picture: PAUL HILTON/ GREENPEACE
DUNCAN Williams continues to fight alongside his Greenpeace colleague Apisalome Waqanisau on the Esperanza to prevent the plunder of Pacific tuna during the Defending our Pacific expedition.

Out at sea for the past two months, Duncan says their journey started in Tahiti and he has since visited the waters of 10 Pacific island countries. The 30-year-old Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans campaigner says his passion for marine conservation is driven by his fondness of the ocean.

"Not the abstract sense of ocean, but the very ocean itself. There's nothing quite as powerful nor as humbling. When you spend enough time in the water, you develop a sense of connection," he said from the environmental organisation's largest ship.

"You are literally able to feel the ocean as a living, breathing entity. Full of life.

"I was born in Suva and have lived here for the better part of my life. I attended Marist Brothers' High School and later studied at the University of the South Pacific where I majored in marine affairs and geography/land management. I went on to complete graduate studies in marine affairs and development studies before completing a Masters in Governance. I've also undertaken a fair bit of diplomacy and marine policy training at Dalhousie University in Canada and the ANU in Canberra. I later worked at USP and Fiji National University before joining Greenpeace."

The sports addict says he has a natural affinity for anything that involves water. And when he's not trying to save our oceans, he usually found playing in it; either surfing the waves at the Suva harbour entrance or outrigger paddling around the islands and reefs of Laucala Bay. Duncan also represented Fiji in outrigger paddling (Va'a) at the 2007 South Pacific Games in Samoa.

"It was during my years in tertiary studies that I discovered the oceans were in a bad way," he said.

"I was always of the assumption that if anything, our seas, in all its immensity and power, is unyielding. I would never have believed the sea to be inexhaustible or that fish were being pushed beyond the brink of extinction in various parts of the world. Who would have thought? After all, we've always held firm to the belief of our oceans and seas as never ending and always giving. But in a changing and developing world, there are a myriad of threats and issues facing all our oceans. It is amazing to see the number of foreign vessels encountered out in the high seas. Most of these vessels do not have licences to fish in the waters of Pacific island countries. They are thousands of miles from home taking tuna from Pacific waters and adding to the destruction of overfishing. It raises a lot of emotions when faced with a long-liner for example and seeing fishermen pulling up sharks, marlin and a handful of tuna."

Equipped with an unwavering passion for the ocean, newfound knowledge and some good old fashion luck, Duncan decided to take up a career in marine conservation.

He joined Greenpeace a few years ago as an oceans campaigner. His main role is keeping abreast of oceans policy issues particularly on (tuna) fisheries in the Pacific and engaging with fisheries specific political forums (international/regional), countries and various international agencies toward sustainable fishing practices.

"It also means being involved in large-scale projects such as the current defending our Pacific tour, which involves several international Greenpeace offices and personnel from all over the world," he said.

"It's quite hectic and involves a lot of travel to meetings that takes me away from home, my wife and family for extended periods of time, but I guess these are the small sacrifices that are needed to ensure a sustainable future for all. It's also quite an adventure. There's never a dull day in Greenpeace. At a personal level, I've been changing my lifestyle ever since I realised that environmental destruction is the sum of our actions and behaviours. I try my best to leave a small environmental footprint each day. I walk or ride a bike to work every day. I try to use recycled bags and bottles instead of plastics, and I eat sustainably caught fish."

So what does he miss about being on land?

"Curry. Vegetable curry!" he exclaimed.

The soon-to-be father who's expecting his first child later in the year says his experiences so far have been part and parcel of life as a member of Greenpeace.

"In terms of our actions to prevent illegal anglers and overfishing we have removed by-catch from lines; protested against several fishing vessels on the high seas and documented fishing activities and vessels. We pass on any information on illegal fishing to the authorities to handle. In 2009, we found a Japanese long-line vessel fishing in the high seas near Cook Islands that had laid its line into the Cook Islands waters. Based on the information supplied to authorities by Greenpeace, the Cook Islands government received a settlement of $NZ1million ($F1.42m)."

He said the ship expedition aims to always ensure the fight continues to help Pacific Island countries from illegal fishing particularly in the high seas pockets.

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