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Dear Friend,

Happy World Oceans Day! Or should I say World Ocean Day. As we know, it is one ocean connected in so many ways.

I have been fortunate to spend the last two weeks in the South Pacific, in the Cook Islands. As expected, warm, tropical breezes, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons greeted me. I toured around the island on my rented scooter and got a closer look at life in paradise. What I found is that this small island, 5,000 miles from the coast of California, was grappling with many of the same issues we face here in the United States: overfishing and ensuring sustainable seafood, preventing agricultural runoff into the lagoon and ocean, establishing marine protected areas, and saving large animals such as whales and sharks. Not surprising, the ocean is an important part of everyday life for the people of the Cook Islands. A healthy ocean supports local fisheries, a vibrant and growing tourist industry, and are an integral part of the local culture.

Congressman Sam Farr, Sally Christine-Rodgers, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Berg

Dedication ceremony for the local Ra'ui

Vakas - Polynesian canoes

I met many local activists working to keep the reefs and ocean healthy and productive. I witnessed the dedication ceremony for the local Ra’ui – a small marine protected area established by the local chiefs. We spoke to farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture about organic farming and food production on the island. Many of the challenges the Cook Islanders face also come back to the need for the political will to establish pro-ocean policies.

A wonderful highlight of my visit was seeing the Vakas, Polynesian canoes, arrive from Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Cook Islands. The reemergence of the Polynesian navigation not only instills a national awareness and pride in the Polynesian culture, it also fosters a greater awareness and appreciation of the marine resources that are so much a part of this culture.

Local fishermen

No fish, no tourists, no jobs!

As we take this day to celebrate our ocean, let us remember all that our ocean supports, both here in the United States and to the far corners of the world and how important it is for all of us to have a healthy and productive ocean.   

For the ocean,

David Wilmot, Ph.D.
President and Co-Founder


 
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