Young Fijian ocean champion AnnMary Raduva believes all ocean stories are interconnected and hopes it is here to stay.
This is her story: This is my Ocean Story – a tribute to my late maternal great grandfather Jimione Mataiasi Howard and to every person who knows the power of our Ocean!
Ma’piga Jimi, as we fondly called him, knew the ocean, reefs, and the lagoons around Rotuma and I can confidently say, no one else in my family knew the sea the way my ma’piga Jimi did. He was an old sailor and a chef – to my extended family, he was a comedian, a seaman and a comrade. To me, he was a gifted storyteller, a keeper of traditional knowledge, a canoe carver and a fisherman!
Ma’piga Jimi is a major part of my ocean story today!
When I was much younger, his stories fueled my passion to be the voice for the turtles, dolphins, sharks, and every life in the lagoon. And it made sense to me at that time – his stories were laced with moonlit fishing for red bass, free diving, voyaging using traditional navigation, and protecting marine life.
But it was also entwined with ocean stories that involved changes – warm waters, over-harvesting of seafood, pollution, unfamiliar fish stock migration, sea-level rise, and climate-related impacts on fishing.
These stories really pointed me towards activism! I inherited my love of the Ocean from him! The ocean stories stuck with me! And this is the beauty of storytelling – sometimes the stories are about mythological creatures from the Ocean or unchartered sea depths with wonders of what lies on the seafloor that is yet to be explored – other times, it was stories of navigating through the currents and using the stars as his GPS to guide him and his catch home.
Every fish, crustacean, wave, and coral in my ma’piga Jimi’s story was meant to connect his young audience to the Ocean, and every song, chant, and narrative aimed at creating curiosity and drive to appreciate and protect the Ocean.
Around early 2018, I asked my parents to help me pray over something that was very close to my heart – advocating for a ban on balloon releasing – after watching a turtle choke on balloon fragments that was on YouTube! When I started campaigning, I was silenced – because I was only a kid – at 14, I was writing letters to the Editors, reading about the Fiji Litter Act 2008, and calling on the Fijian government to look at balloon releasing as littering and make amendments to the Fiji Litter Act 2008.
And when business houses and adults challenged me to give them an alternative to using balloons, I turned to mangrove planting – and fought back by walking the talk – instead of using balloons to mark a special milestone or an event, I encouraged people to plant mangroves or plant native trees and to explore other environment friendlier alternatives.
It is a great feeling to have a hands-on role in coastal rehabilitation through mangrove planting activities and to learn about the environmental benefits of mangroves!
A couple of months back, I read about Nicole’s amazing and inspiring story when she became the first Pacific Islander and fourth woman to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench! These feel good stories gives me HOPE – and it is humbling to share this space with Nicole, Katrilla and Hereiti today!
All our ocean stories are inter-connected. I hope Ocean storytelling is here to stay.