Tokelau helps launch Global Ocean Commission report

New York, 24 June 2014
Reversing the degradation of the high seas is the objective of the Global Ocean Commission. Its final report, including a five-year ocean rescue package for the global ocean, was launched at the American Museum of Natural History in New York recently.

Among the keynote speakers was Global Ocean Commissioner, and Tokelau's Minister Of Energy and Transport, Aliki Faipule Foua Toloa.

Mr Toloa’s statement included the following:

“We are convinced that the ocean has been crying black tears, due to the abuse that we have caused over time. We owe the ocean an apology, and I humbly ask that all of us unite in reversing the ocean’s black tears back to its original emerald and great rainbow colours.”

A video with extracts from key speeches at the New York even can be found on youtube.
More information, including the final report, is at the Global Ocean Commission’s website
Aliki Faipule Foua Toloa delivering his keynote speech in New York.

 The full text of Mr Toloa's speech follows:

Oo ko Ioa! (x3)
In recognition of our heavenly Father,
I wish to acknowledge the people of the land,
I acknowledge our ancestors that have passed on,

Excellencies, honourable and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It took 13 years for me to be bestowed my tautai title by my elders (it’s more or less equivalent to a Japanese master fisherman). The Ocean section was the most difficult to learn and master because of its dynamics. I originally thought I was only learning about the methods and techniques of catching the highly migratory species of tuna and billfish, but unfortunately it also involved the spiritual, cultural, and the social dimensions of ocean resources and conservations.

You must gain the skills and experience to be able to understand and predict the physical environment, the current, wind, rain and clouds. You must also learn swiftness and skill in performing the techniques of catching tuna, whether it is lassoing Wahoo or Yellowfin, or polling skipjack, each must be perfected over time. Mastering the knowledge of fish behaviour, whether the school is a thinner, a ripper or foamier of skipjack, determines the lure you use for the day.

In the beginning of every tuna season, around November, public prayers are held and presented to the god of the ocean for his blessing on the season; apologising at the same time for any mishap by the tautai that would cause a fish to be hurt in the course of landing it, and for the sanctity of the lives of the fish that will be caught. During this prayer, usually all the names of the fish are recited.

Sharing the fish is most important. It is by equal distribution to people in all the community. The fatherless and motherless children are not marginalised. The women with no husbands receive her equal share and the elderly are taken care of.

Master fishermen that abuse the ocean and do not follow the ocean protocols will cause the ocean to cry, we were taught. My elders said, ‘the oceans have tears and when you abuse and disrespect the ocean and its values, its tears will turn black’.

Allow me to draw the parallel of the work of the Commission towhat I have experienced during my cadetship, learning to be a master fisherman and to care for the ocean. In the launch today our elders have been behind us, Summerville College, the Pew Foundation, Odysium, Ocean 5 and others. The co-chairs rightfully earned their place to sit at the stern of the canoe and to work together with the Commissioners in giving directions of our required course, whether it is the Northern Star or the Southern Cross. Without the hard work of the Secretariat, who have been the arms and legs of the Commission, to ensure that the canoe/report will be launched today – congratulations!

With everyone on board, including your Excellencies, honourables and distinguished representatives of various organisations, members of the Small Island Development States, ladies and gentlemen allow me to recite this ancestral prayer for the blessing of the launch of the Global Ocean Commission report tonight.

Tui Tokelau e!
When you come down to your ocean
A season of yellowfin; a season of skipjack; a season of billfish; a season of albacore; a season of dolphin; a season of whale; a season of shark; a season of turtle; a season of rainbow runner.
A season! A season! A season!

When you come to your land
A season of people; a season of good leaders; a season of goodwill; a season of commitment; a season of love; a season of working together/collaboration; a season of fairness and a season of hope and blessing.
A season! A season! A season!

Excellencies, honourable representatives of various organisations, honourable members of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, we are convinced the ocean has been crying black tears due to the abuse that we have caused over time. We owe the ocean an apology, and I humbly ask that all of us be united in reversing the Ocean’s black tears to its original emerald and rainbow colours, for the benefit of our children, now and in the future.

With this motherly lament I conclude:
Tui e!
Te ata kua kakau;
E laga kita ko te fanau;
Aue te alofa e faigata!

Tui, please wake up;
Wake up as dawn has broken;
We must wake up because of our children;
Oh! Our endless love for them
Causes so much pain.