Guest blog by Angela Martin
I learned about these two inspirational women, who are making their mark on the direction of whale conservation and management in the Pacific Islands region, at the “Whales in a Changing Ocean” conference, in Tonga, in April 2017. Fiafia Rex and Aunofo Havea use their power as individuals to create positive change in their societies to help protect whales. With their permission, a short outline of their work is shared below, with links to find out more.
Fiafia founded a whale research and conservation organisation called Oma Tafua, which means “to treasure whales”, dedicated to protecting and increasing our education and awareness of all cetacean species in Niue. Fiafia spoke at the conference about her work to document and conserve humpback whales in Niue, which are part of the endangered Oceania population. Oma Tafua have a small budget, but this doesn’t stop them! With the assistance of volunteers who provide time, lend equipment and allow use of their boats to collect data, Oma Tafua have been successful in recording the slow recovery of whale populations in Niue over the last ten years. Their data has been used to highlight the importance of whale conservation, both in Niue and throughout Oceania.
Video of Fiafia at work with Oma Tafua.
Fiafia’s work with Oma Tafua is on Facebook and was covered by a SPREP (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme) News Release in April 2017.
Aunofo, who made waves as the first female Captain in Tonga and founded the Tonga Voyaging Society, spoke at the conference about the importance of whales for the Pacific region. Aunofo takes tourists to see the huge humpback whales that return to Tonga every year from Antarctica on a Vaka (canoe), which is entirely run on solar power and sails. Aunofo describes her connection to the whales as though they are her family, and is passionate about whale conservation and responsible tourism practices.
Aunofo at work with the Tonga Voyaging Society, video courtesy of Okeanos Vaka Motu.
Aunofo’s work with the Tonga Voyaging Society is also on Facebook.
I am the Project Lead at Blue Climate Solutions, a Project of The Ocean Foundation, and am based in the UK. I attended the “Whales in a Changing Ocean” conference to talk about the importance of whales for blue carbon – that is, carbon associated with the ocean. There are many pathways through which carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and driver of climate change, can be removed from the atmosphere and stored: I focus on those associated with ocean life, including whales. Understanding and protecting these pathways can help in the fight against climate change.
My work is shared on the Blue Climate Solutions website, and whale carbon was featured in Scientific American in April 2017.
Although we may all come from different backgrounds, cultures and disciplines, we are all connected through our interest in, and passion for, a healthy ocean.
W4O celebrates the achievements of women who strive to make a difference for the ocean. Add yourself to the map, join the conversation in our Facebook group, and if you have a story to share as a guest blogger, we want to hear from you!