Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ensuring Conservation Through Education in Fiji

Here at the International League of Conservation Photographers, we know that in order to capture the images that inspire people, sometimes you've got to get your hands dirty. And that's part of the inspiration behind our Tripods in the Mud (TIM) initiative that helps partner professional photographers with conservation organizations for the creation of visual materials on a specific region or issue. iLCP photographer Keith Ellenbogen recently returned from a TIM expedition to Fiji, so this week we've decided to highlight Keith's work and what he discovered while working in Fiji.
Stay tuned for more stories from Fiji throughout the week!

Marine issues are key in Fiji. Take a quick look at Google and you'll soon find that there are plenty of marine conservation related expeditions and volunteer trips. In a pristine region that's up against severe challenges like pollution, over fishing coral reef degradation and erosion, it's no surprise that the global community wants to make sure that the island's unspoiled landscape and waters don't fall victim to these threats. But beyond the global support for these islands, there's a lot of stuff happening on the ground to ensure that the beautiful and diverse marine environment in this area of the world doesn't disappear, and one of those is one of the simplest things that we can support: education.

This summer the International Pacific Marine Educators Network convened in Fiji to discuss sustainable development in the Pacific region. At the conference's end, it was clear that strengthening the role of marine education and traditional knowledge is a crucial component to the future of sustainable development in this region, and both UNESCO and the Fiji government made commitments to making sure that this would happen.

“Pacific Islanders, who are custodians of the rich but threatened marine biodiversity in the region, have for centuries applied customary management practices in the traditional governance of their fishing grounds,” noted associate professor Joeli Veitayaki, coordinator of the Marine Studies Division at the University of the South Pacific (USP).

“While remnants of the system remain today, the people have witnessed increasing threats as they have to share their resources with other people with whom they must now work to ensure its sustainability.”

What exactly does that look like? Making sure that marine education is included in Fiji's school curriculum, setting up a combined youth forum between Fijian school students and Coorparoo Secondary College, Brisbane, Australia. The power of education in aiding some of our bigger, global issues can't be stressed enough. Fiji currently does not include marine education in its primary and secondary curriculum although most of the students come from coastal villages or are connected to them. Think about the potential for change if all of them were well educated about their local environment from a younger age; better local stewardship equals better global citizens when it comes to the environment, and that will be something Fiji can be truly proud of.

Image: Alex Kehr

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