Monday, November 10, 2014

Dare to Change the World

Guest Post
by Arthur Sokimi

I’m sitting here at the airport in Quito thinking about the incredible week here at the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species. I’m also thinking about the long and painful journey ahead of me and my fellow Fijian delegate, Saras Sharma of the Ministry of Fisheries. Sharma, by the way, is sleeping on a seat next to me in the departure lounge. I am really envious of people who sleep so easily! She’ll need it. Over the next two days we are flying from Quito to Miami to Los Angeles and finally on to Fiji. I’ll get a lot of reading done – you can only watch Guardians of the Galaxy so many times – but I expect my bottom is going to be very sore again!

As I sit here I am in very high spirits. Yesterday marked a monumental moment for shark and ray conservation. All 21 species of sharks and rays that were proposed for listing on CMS Appendices I and II were adopted by the plenary during the last day of deliberations at the CMS COP 11. Even Chile and Peru, who had initially been opposed to the listing of silky sharks, came around in the eleventh hour and voiced their support.

Congratulations are due to all the countries that were successful and I sincerely thank everyone for supporting Fiji’s proposals!

As a member of the Fiji delegation I am immensely proud of my country and fellow delegation members. We took our first CMS COP by storm with a proposal to list 9 mobula and reef mantas on the two appendices. I am truly honoured to have been a part of this fabulous team led by our gentle giant and personification of humility, Mr. Aisake Batibasaga of the Ministry of Fisheries. His leadership was a pillar of strength for us less-experienced members of the delegation. Saras managed everything for our team from before we left Fiji until now. We were blessed to have her be our calm, yet surprisingly firm, voice. My buddy Ian Campbell of the WWF Shark Programme was our joker and also technical person, and despite his bad jokes, he proved to be indispensable.

Thank you to our hosts, the Ecuadorian government, particularly the Minister of Environment Lorena Tapia, and the wonderful people of Ecuador for being delightful hosts and allowing us to experience and enjoy their beautiful home.

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the CMS Secretariat for all the hard work and making this COP a memorable and productive one.

Thank you to all our partners who helped the Fiji delegation with drafting our proposals and getting us to Quito. The Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, The Manta Trust, and SPREP head this distinguished list.

And huge thanks to all the bubbly personalities from around the world. It was particularly great to see Perry, Luke, Isabel, and KerriLynn again.

I have been working on shark conservation for a few years. Yet this was the first time for me to work on shark conservation on the global stage. I am filled with happiness and am grateful to have had had the opportunity to be but a small part of this.

I hope this feeling lasts the entire 48 hours or so it is going to take to get me back to my own bed in Suva, Fiji. I leave inspired, knowing that our work is only just beginning. The theme of CMS COP 11 was “Time for Action,” and I plan to take this home as my personal mantra in the coming months.

We have reached the threshold where human inaction may lead to a bleak future, not only for migratory species and nature, but for us humans also. We must take the steps necessary to set things on the right track.

Minister Tapia told us in her closing remarks, “It is time for us to dare to change the world.”

Challenge accepted, and I humbly ask you to join me.

Arthur Sokimi is the director of outreach for Shark Defenders. He lives in Suva, Fiji. You can follow Arthur on Twitter.

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