Monday, August 27, 2012

Akono te mango: Protect our sharks

AKONO TE MANGO: This is the plea Miss Cook Islands Teuira Napa is making to her people.

Napa has joined the movement of local people supporting the creation of a shark sanctuary, which will effectively ban shark finning in Cook Islands waters. Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative (PICI) got the ball rolling last year, and the movement is gaining momentum as local people step up to take ownership of their sharks.

”I’m passionate about marine (life) and I think a shark sanctuary is a great idea,“ Napa said.

She joins a growing team of people who are canvassing visitors at the Punanga Nui market on Saturdays, asking them to sign a petition in support of a shark sanctuary.

”We’re really going after the locals and asking them to sign our big board and we’re hoping to present that (to government) to say this is what the people want,“ Napa said.

Also on board is Maine Purotu Kate Ngatokorua, who says she was able to get 60 local signatures in just one hour – an indication, she says, that local people want to protect their sharks.

”After hearing about shark finning during the Miss Cook Islands pageant I was horrified,“ Ngatokorua said. ”I really didn’t know how bad it really was and I don’t think many people know either.

”Sharks may be seen as man eaters but they have a part in our Cook Islands culture and legends and they are a part of the great circle of life. I don’t think it’s fair that a species that has been around for millions of years and survived through so much should be wiped out by us (humans).

”To help I have joined PICI in the Shark Sanctuary project and we petition at the markets on Saturdays to get the motions going in turning our Cook Islands waters into a shark sanctuary. I feel that I’m doing my part to help keep a species around and prevent them from undergoing the cruel torture of shark finning.“

Napa, Ngatokorua and the team have been operating on Saturday mornings from a table next to Napa’s family craft shop.

Emcee Danny Mataroa, who has been supportive of the shark sanctuary initiative from the get-go, on Saturday encouraged market-goers to champion the cause.

Mataroa regularly talks about sharks when he emcees island nights around Rarotonga because he believes government ”isn’t listening“.

”We made an agreement with these fishing companies to take our tuna and now they’re taking our sharks and that’s not in the agreement... The problem here is the government is not hearing.

”They’re acting like they’re listening but we had a meeting where we had a consultant from overseas invited by (the Ministry of) Marine Resources and some of us in the public were invited to come and we spoke up but still no action has been taken.

”I think the best thing to happen is through this petition and the executive decision needs to be made in the Cabinet. Take the tuna as agreed. Leave the sharks alone.

”When the NZ navy came and they assisted the Kukupa with some patrolling they boarded some of these (foreign) fishing boats and saw containers and containers of shark fins.

”...If it’s money that the government wants then we should be punishing them with some huge fees for breaking the law and the agreement.“

Written by Rachel Reeves and published in the Cook Islands News on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.  Follow Pacific Islands Conservation Initative and Polynesia Shark Defenders on Facebook to keep up with the latest from the effort to create a shark sanctuary in the Cook Islands.


Jack said...

It is always nice to see when such initiatives are taken and indeed we need to do more to preserve the eco system. Enjoyed this post , so thanks for it.

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