We are making good time on our passage from Tahiti to Rapa Iti for the latest Pristine Seas expedition to study and film the diverse and untouched ecosystems here in the far south of French Polynesia. We should be sheltering in calm waters off the northwest coast of the island tonight. At first light we will evaluate the sea conditions to see if the tricky approach to Ha’urei Bay is possible in these big waves rolling in from the southeast. In anticipation of our arrival, team member Poema du Prel presents today’s blog.
We are lucky to have Poema du Prel, from the Pew Global Ocean Legacy team based in Tahiti, on our team to lead the liaison between the Rapa people and us. Poema has been to Rapa few times and is a respected member of the extended Rapa community. She knows the island and the people, speaks Tahitian and is even patient enough to teach us the basics. In anticipation of our arrival, she presents today’s blog.
By Poema du PrelPoema Du Prel. (Photo by Paul Rose)
As we get closer to Rapa, memories and feelings from my last trips float through my mind. I feel excitement, happiness, and sadness as I return to my adopted family and friends and carry the ones who passed away in my heart. Ocean has been the center of my life for many years and I feel the most alive surrounded by her, in her. Ocean hears wishes and has led me to join the Pew Charitable Trust to help creating marine reserves in French Polynesia and implement the government’s commitment to protect 20 percent of our waters by 2020.
Rapa is a model of coastal marine conservation as it is one of the only islands to practice the Rahui, a traditional seasonal rotative program for marine and land management. As the National Geographic Pristine Seas team will be exploring the underwater world, our Pew team (Jerome Petit and myself) will be spending time with the community, interviewing the local population about the Rahui and listening to their recommendations on the project to create a large-scale marine reserve in the Austral archipelago. The information we will collect on this Rapa and Marotiri mission will hopefully inspire and help other islands and countries to create similar community-based fishery management systems.
Watching the deep blue ocean surrounding us, words from my spiritual grandpa Papa Mape come to my mind:
“Ia here ‘oe i te Fenua, e here te Fenua ia ‘oe, ia here ‘oe i te Tai,
E here te Tai ia ‘oe, ia ha’amāuiui oe i te Fenua,
Te ha’amāuiui ato’a ra oe i te Tai, ua ai fāito noa te Tai e te Fenua,
Te ū e vai ra i nia i te Fenua, te vai atoa ra ia i roto i te Tai”
Which could be translated as,
“Love the Ocean, and the Ocean will love you,
Love the Land and the Land will love you,
When you hurt the Land, you hurt the Ocean,
The Land and the Ocean are in balance, the color of the Land is in the Ocean”.
Arohanui, mauruuru. [Goodbye, and thank you.]
The Pristine Seas expedition to Rapa is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.