With a focus on island communities and the ocean environment, OceansWatch International is an organisation of sailors making the world a better place, as well as offering willing volunteers some fabulous sailing experiences. The formula is working and Ocean Watch members are increasing in both enthusiasm and numbers by the day.
Tuo Villagers on the OceansWatch yacht
Here are two case studies:
Success with the Tuo communities Marine Protection Area (MPA)
'We can’t believe our eyes – fish are coming close to the beach.'
Tuo Village is a remote village on Fenualoa Island, in the Reef Islands, part of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Sandy beaches and idyllic lagoons have long hid an environmental problem in that their area is becoming fished out and their water brackish.
Owing to visits before from Oceans Watch, when the crew arrived this time Tuo village already knew it wanted to establish an Marine Protection Area or MPA. The village fishermen were clearly aware of declining catches and the additional effort it took to feed their families.
As in other parts of the Solomons, rapidly growing populations were severely taxing the marine resources they relied on to feed them. Moreover, the community’s main source of income, the sale of marine products (fish, beche-de-mere, shells, etc.), was in decline.
They had also noted salination of the wells, changes in the coral in their surrounding reefs and clearly understood the implications, if not the actual reasons, for these changes. Lawrence, like Willie before him, was hoping OceansWatch could help.
OceansWatch had made its initial visit to Tuo in early June 2010. The community was now seeking OceansWatch’s advice as to the suitability of the marine area they had chosen to conserve.
A spokesman explained that the 'community was very much behind the plan and welcomed OceansWatch assistance. The community wanted to do it. OceansWatch provided technical assistance and support.'
He explained that OceansWatch helped immensely by holding meetings that included training about fish awareness and climate change; discussions of old fishing methods by the village elders that led to decisions to ban gill nets and diving at night; and teacher training to help teach children about the environment, conservation, and climate change.
Ocean Watch's discussions of old methods from the old men—about wind, fishing patterns, and sailing were particularly rewarding because these were things that most of the community members had never heard before.
The marine protection area is in the process of being set up, to ensure the ongoing viability of the islands.
Shannon Gordon's amazing Pacific sailing adventure:
Shannon Gordon on the helm
OceansWatch member Shannon Gordon has just returned from sailing across the Pacific Ocean, an opportunity which came about through her involvement with OceansWatch.
'Never in a million years did I think I would ever sail across the Pacific, but when the opportunity came up I grabbed it!' Considering she only started sailing a year ago Shannon really jumped in at the deep end.
'When I knew that I was going to be making the trip I decided to use the opportunity to fundraise for OceansWatch. I emailed my friends and family and sent them reports on my training, which included courses in sea survival and navigation.
'I gave presentations at work and approached the local IGA supermarket for help. IGA donated four boxes of chocolate fish* which I sold to raise money. I spread the word about OceansWatch and ended up raising over $1300.'
The highlights of Shannon’s sailing trip included the Panama Canal crossing and visiting the Galapagos Islands. The journey took over three months and covered more than 7000 nautical miles.
'My sailing trip was an amazing experience. I want to encourage members to think creatively about ways to fundraise, as every little bit helps. Raising the money was great but the support and encouragement I got from friends and family was incredible. It really highlighted for me that when you give, you receive.'
To learn more about OceansWatch or be part of their activities, go to the http://www.oceanswatch.org/!OceansWatch_Website.