AHI MOUR, AHI PWUKOAH! A CAMPAIGN TO SAVE POHNPEI'S WATERSHEDS AND REEF FISHERIES
On January 25, 2015, the Pohnpei Fisheries Management Working Group kicked off a campaign to save Pohnpei State's watersheds and fisheries during a special session of the Mwoahl en Wahu Ileile en Wein Pohnpei (The Paramount Chiefs Council of Pohnpei Island).
The Group, composed of government and non-government organizations, along with Pohnpei fishers and farmers, appeared before the Council with the Nature Conservancy's Pacific Director, Bill Raynor. Mr Raynor thanked the island's Paramount Chiefs for 35 years of hospitality and respect during which time they made him the first American village "talking" chief (Pelien Dahl). He urged the Traditional Leaders to take control of the Pohnpei Watershed Forest Reserve and the Marine Protected Areas work around the state in order to realize the vision of those who began these partnerships 29 years ago. The vision remains to protect Pohnpei's rich natural resources in order to secure and improve the quality of life for the people of Pohnpei as they depend on these resources for their livelihoods and survival. The Paramount Chiefs Council unanimously agreed to take the lead in this effort and to ensure that the campaign message: Ahi Mour, Ahi Pwukoah (My life. My community. My reef. My responsibility), reaches all the citizens and residents of Pohnpei.
Following this commitment, and at the invitation of the Soukinsehnleng (Paramount Chief of the municipality of Kitti), the Group was able to present on the rapidly decreasing areas of intact forests and depleting reef fish stocks in Pohnpei at the gathering of the traditional leaders of Kitti municipality on February 14, 2015. Nahnsahuririn Madolenihmw, Mr. Pius Hadley, who is also the Director of the Pohnpei Department of Land & Natural Resources, headed the campaign at the meeting in the community of Enipein Pah, Kitti and continued pushing the message shared by Bill Raynor. At the assembly, Soukinsehnleng strongly declared (Poahngoak) that he will no longer allow any illegal, undersized and threatened species in traditional events. The threatened species include turtles, bump-head parrotfish(kemeik) and Napoleon wrasse (Merer). He instructed all the section chiefs of Kitti (Soumas) to do the same in their respective village (Kousapw) feasts and ceremonies. He further instructed the Kitti municipal government to ensure that his message (Poahngoak) is heard and observed by all the residents of Kitti Municipality.
The campaign continued to progress at a gathering of over 100 local government council members, during the Pohnpei State local government Council Summit on February 19, 2015. A highlight included Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture Administrator Joseph Saimon's response to a question on the need for stronger penalties for fishers; "the best law is the responsibility we take for ourselves", he said. Another highlight was a remark from Council Woman, Yuko Nakasone, who said that she found the presentation 'very enlightening' - she would not have known the gravity and urgency of the problem were it not for the presentation that Executive Director of CSP, Eugene Joseph, delivered at the gathering.
On 21 February 2014, the message was then shared at a meeting of the Catholic Deacons in Pohnpei. Following discussions among the Deacons and the Working Group, Father Julio Angken and the Deacons affirmed that they would all support and spread the awareness campaign amongst their respective parishes. " The campaign is very much in alignment with our spiritual values. We must be grateful for the gifts in natural resources that God has given us and it is our responsibility to take care of them", said Father Julio Angken.
The Working Group will continue to campaign in all the municipalities in Pohnpei and with other stakeholder groups. The Working Group is also collaborating with the Pohnpei Women's Council, which has adopted the Ahi Mour, Ahi Pwukoah theme for this year's International Women's Day celebrations on March 13, 2015.