Eight million metric tons of plastic winds up in our oceans each year. That’s enough to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic. It’s hard to believe but there is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way. The Pacific Ocean covers half of the world’s surface and is the largest ecosystem in the world. The coastal and marine environments of Oceania support several activities that sustain local, national and international economies, providing livelihoods and food security for millions of people. The reality of ocean change and climate change is obvious for those whose livelihoods depend on the ocean. For islanders and those living on the coasts, the change in the ocean is reflected in shifts in weather patterns, extreme ocean and weather events, rising ocean temperatures and the impacts on local businesses.
Port Denarau Marina achieved ‘Level 3 Clean Marina’ as well as ‘Fish Friendly’ accreditation in May 2017. There have been significant efforts by the marina to improve environmental practices in Fiji. The Clean Marina program has provided important guidelines for the Port Denarau Marina to provide leadership and enabled the marina to reach out and assist the communities by way of education and awareness programs to build on marine conservation.
Realizing the immediate threat that our small island nation is in, Port Denarau Marina decided to join hands with Oceanlovers, an Australian organisation focused on raising global awareness and education on marine conservation to bring about programs to community levels.
Oceanlovers is on a mission to share adventures inspired by the ocean and to protect one of the earth’s most important resources. Franziska Iseli, the founder of the company, believes that education about the ocean should start at a very young age which is why the Oceanlovers team has developed a pre-school program to share knowledge about the ocean and how anyone can contribute to its sustainability in a simple and fun way. “The ocean is one of our most precious resources and we need to take care of it. I was sitting in the ocean on my surfboard one morning when the concept of Oceanlovers came to me. I wanted to build something that motivates people to look after our oceans through sustainable products, beach clean-ups and fun ocean awareness programs for children.” says Franziska.
The company will be introducing the Oceanlovers Education and Awareness Program into the Mamanuca Group of Islands in the next few months and will also get other kindergartens around Fiji and the world on board to make an even bigger impact. The focus is to raise awareness on the ocean and its conservation with children between the ages of 2-12 years through contents that are identifiable to their age group. The program is free for anyone who wants to participate and fully funded by Oceanlovers and Port Denarau Marina.
Fiji Sun is supporting the program in form of a page dedicated to contents for the awareness campaign every Friday for a whole year. The page will have segmented material for different age groups, including a coloring section for kindergarten age, stories for older children and word puzzles for pre-teens. The content will be downloadable from the Port Denarau Marina website as well.
Another partner for the program is Champs on Wheels, a NGO providing education for underprivileged children through the Nadi corridor by way of a mobile kindy. These communities are the most vulnerable when it comes to climate change. Shabreen Nisha, Founder and Director of Champs on Wheel is excited to embark on this venture. “This program will enhance children’s learning on marine life and the true value and importance of ocean in young minds. It is high time now for us to get together to make a difference at the grassroots. Champs on Wheels is privileged to deliver this program at community level to make a strong understanding on the value of the ocean. To make a difference we need to start advocating in the foundation level for a better future,” says Shabreen. As an Early Childhood Educator, Shabreen oversees that content is aligned within the ECE guidelines.
For a number of years Port Denarau Marina has been supporting the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) in their efforts to make positive and significant contributions for the sustainability of the Mamanuca region and the surrounding island environment. MES is a non-profit organisation whose primary objective is to promote and encourage sound environmental management practices with the goal being the sustainability of our fragile marine and terrestrial environment. Marica Vakacola, MES Project Manager said, “We are grateful to Port Denarau Marina for its timely sponsorship and for the opportunity to extend our awareness education program with Oceanlovers to preschools in the Mamanuca region. This is a great boost to the Society community engagement imparting knowledge to the very young community member ages 4-5 in areas of ocean conservation that surrounds their very own island homes. This initiative directly support the Societies vision and Global Sustainable Goal: Goal 14- Life under water.” MES will support the initiative to enable a wider reach.
Cynthia Rasch, General Manager of Port Denarau Marina is excited to facilitate the program, “Ocean Conservation is a very important subject for our island nation and the only way that we will be able to raise awareness is by reaching out to the community. By teaching our children environmental stewardship that will bode well for environmentally sound practices in the years to come.
Communities are becoming more aware of the need to protect the marine environment and this is showing up in positive changes along the rural community and our lead role in COP23. Improving the coastal marine environment is a big project but it’s not impossible. The way to educate is community by community with each developing and carrying out its own supported plans for improving their waters. The ocean sustains all life on the planet and the quality of that life depends on healthy oceans. In the next two decades, it’s estimated that the ocean would have more plastic than fish. This is a very alarming situation and the only way we can turn this around is by creating awareness for our communities, educating our children and joining forces to ensure that our actions now will determine the state of the oceans and sustainability of our future generations. We intend to achieve this through our Oceanlovers Education & Awareness Program,” says Cynthia.
Oceanlovers Education & Awareness Program was launched through Champs on Wheels at Nawaka Village community hall on Tuesday, 16th October 2018. It was incredibly overwhelming to witness the support and interest of Nawaka Village for this program. The first publication will be released by Fiji Sun on the 19thof October, we urge educators, children and parents to take the time to go through this section and raise awareness on this very important topic. Stay tuned as we develop this content and bring exciting new ways of learning and sharing.