Pacific Island Leaders join Mua Voyage to set the sails for a new future | Pacific Voyagers

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Pacific Island Leaders join Mua Voyage to set the sails for a new future

12 November, Sydney, Australia - The Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) joined Pacific leaders and regional and international partners as the Mua Voyage of traditional ocean sailing canoes came to a dynamic, colourful and historic conclusion in Sydney today.

Vakas underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge by Stuart Chape_Blog

The four traditional voyaging canoes from Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa have sailed to Sydney, Australia bringing a message of hope and progress and calling for unity amongst people and harmony with nature. In true Pacific spirit, the Voyaging Societies of Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, have chosen to work as one to bring the Pacific voice to the World Parks Congress, which opened this afternoon at the Sydney Olympic Park.

Mr David Sheppard joined Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr; Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity,  Braulio Dias; and Executive Vice President of Conservation International, Greg Stone; on board the Samoan and Tongan crewed Gaualofa. President of Kiribati Anote Tong, and Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna, joined Fiji’s Uto ni Yalo and Cook Islands Marumaru Atua respectively.

Crew haka at Darling Harbour by Stuart Chape_Blog

Following a rousing welcoming dance by the crew, the Gaualofa guests were ushered on board,  and allowed turns on the foe which steers the canoe.

The two hour sail from Watson’s Bay to the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour allowed time for guests to mingle with the crew, talk about environmental matters and learn how the va’a works and the many challenges that come with ocean voyaging.

The crew of Gaualofa is committed to environmentally sustainable practices, both on water and on land and many have become strong advocates for the protection and conservation of the ocean. Much of this has to do with their own experiences on the ocean and learning to live together in close quarters on the va’a.

“Before I started on the first voyage I did not have any idea of conservation or biodiversity or even of waste management,” says Fealofani Bruun, Watch Captain and an original crew member of Gaualofa.

Referring to an earlier Voyage in 2010, she reflects, “Even after environmental briefings by SPREP, Conservational International and others, I don’t think any of us really appreciated the true importance of our Pacific Ocean, not until we were actually out there and experiencing first-hand the true beauty and power of nature.”

“Now, we get it – when we see plastic bags floating in the ocean, we know it’s because of our actions on land. When we catch a fish to eat, we appreciate that we can’t continue to take more than can be replenished by nature.”

“SPREP is committed to working with initiatives such as this to enable national and community level education and awareness programmes that will develop the type of leadership that is imperative to fostering real change towards a Pacific where the environment, livelihoods and our cultures are in harmony,” said Mr Sheppard.

“Not everyone will sail on the open ocean, so it is our responsibility to help to share these experiences with others and to use this to motivate them to protect and better manage our natural environment.”

“The Mua Voyage has set a high standard for the Voyagers and partners alike, and I am keen to ensure that this momentum will progress and be reflected in action at the national level.”

SPREP is a co-partner in the Mua Voyage, which is  coordinated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Oceania Regional Office based in Suva, Fiji.

Vakas in Sydney Harbour by Stuart Chape_Blog

All pictures by courtesy of Stuart Chape.

For more amazing images from Mr. Stuart Chape, please visit:  https://www.facebook.com/SPREP.PEIN

Reposted from SPREP News, November 13, 2014

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