Vakas moanas – boats of ancient Poynesian tradition – courtesy of Pacific Voyagers website
by Dan Bacher
A group of Pacific Islanders called the “Pacific Voyagers” have traveled from New Zealand to California on “vaka moanas,” boats of ancient Polynesian tradition, to renew their commitment to healthy ocean ecosystems for future generations.
They will be landing at Del Monte Beach in Monterey at approximately noon on Friday, August 12th and will be greeted by representatives from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, according to Sanctuary spokesperson Deirdre Whalen.
Ironically, while sanctuary officials will greet representatives of indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands on their voyage, California officials still refuse to recognize the ocean gathering rights of California’s indigenous nations.
“Our Polynesian ancestors respected and cared for the sea,” according to a statement from the Pacific Voyagers (http://www.pacificvoyagers.org/voyage). “As we follow in their wake on our journey, we carry with us Te Mana o Te Moana, The Spirit of the Seas, as we venture forth raising awareness to help heal our ocean. Like our forefathers had done thousands of years before us, we travel using traditional Vaka Moana, voyaging canoes.”
“Our mission is simple: Use the wisdom of our ancestors, combined with modern science, to propel us into a more sustainable future, help heal our injured ocean, raise awareness, and to revive our cultural traditions of voyaging. Demographically, our crews vary. We have come together from many islands, men and women, young and older, to sail our seven vaka as one,” the group explained.
Starting in Aotearoa (New Zealand) in April of 2011, they have sailed to Tahiti, The Marquesas, and throughout Hawaii where they attended the Kava Bowl Ocean Summit.
“At the Kava Bowl Summit, all voyagers, along with some of the top marine scientists in the world, came together to address the effects of climate change on our ocean, the economic costs of the ocean, and the intrinsic value we hold for our ocean. During this unique Summit, we built a bridge, linking our traditional wisdom and spirit of the sea, with current scientific findings,” the Pacific Voyagers stated.
Currently, they are in North America sailing down the California Coast, starting in San Francisco and concluding this leg of their journey in San Diego.
“Along the way, we welcome people to come and explore our vaka moanas, and we want to share the insight that we’ve learned and the things we have seen,” the group said. “We want to raise awareness of the current health of our Pacific Ocean and show people what they can do to help. During our journey thus far, we’ve seen pockets of floating plastic and debris, litter strewn upon our beaches, and the most heartbreaking: a Fin Whale just off the shores of San Francisco, struggling in an entangled piece of plastic rope took hold deeper.”
Whalen said staff from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA’s West Coast Regional Office of Marine Sanctuaries and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will welcome the visitors to the Sanctuary upon their arrival. The Sanctuary will also present the Pacific Voyagers with a certificate of appreciate for the group’s commitment to ocean stewardship.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), designated in 1992, is a federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is part of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System. Stretching from Marin to Cambria, the MBNMS encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles and 6,094 square miles of ocean.
Known as the “Serengeti of the Sea” and supporting one of the world’s most productive and diverse marine ecosystems, it is home to a variety of marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, invertebrates and plants, according to Whalen. The MBNMS was established for the purpose of “protecting and preserving this vital area as well as ensuring its sustainable use, conducting and coordinating ongoing research, and offering educational opportunities to foster stewardship for this national treasure.”
For further information on the exact time and details of the beach greeting with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, contact Deirdre Whalen at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Phone: 831-455-6556, Email: Deirdre.Whalen [at] noaa.gov.