It is not always easy to be interested in issues that take place far from home and yet this subject is particularly close to my heart because I have a special love for this distant land of “Marquises Islands”, almost inaccessible for which Jacques Brel sang so well, “time stands still”.
Perhaps one must have once explored these isolated and preserved lands to understand the extent of human and ecological wealth. Maybe not…
The volcanic islands of the Marquises form the largest archipelago of French Polynesia, located about 1500 km north-north / east of Tahiti, these islands named Fenua Enata in Marquisian, contain hitherto protected natural treasures.
The still unexplored seabed is a shelter for populations of hammerhead sharks, pelagic sharks, manta rays, schools of fish, … of a wealth comparable, for example, to that of the Galapagos.
Today threatened with full force by a huge fishing project, the marine sanctuary of the Marquises is at stake.
There, at the end of the world, yet a whole population is mobilized to prevent this scenario of an announced death .
To understand correctly
For many years, dozens of tuna boats fishing on the edge of the protected area of the Marquises Islands (until now closed to industrial fishing) empty the oceans of hundreds of thousands of tons of tuna every year!
While the Marquesans have tried to enroll their territory to the UNESCO World Heritage in September 2017, shipowners have won the battle and are preparing large fleets of tuna boats off the Marquises Islands, in the middle of French Polynesia.
If the goal of Eugene Degage and Tetuani Tutu is to double the tuna fishery and go from 6000 tons to 12000 tons per year to satisfy the Chinese and American markets (especially sashimi!), It is under the cover of the creation of 600 jobs (direct and indirect) that they argue the interest of this project.
Why the Marquises Islands?
The interest of fishing in the Marquises is quite obvious.
As there is no industrial fishing (or canning) in this part of the world, many species of fish are present in large numbers.
This is the case of sea bream and the coveted bigeye tuna also called Hoke (Marquisian)
This abundance of fish is also explained by the fact that the population of these islands is still very attached to ancestral traditions such as the rahui that wants everyone to respect natural resources.
Marquesans therefore use the natural resources of their islands and sea to feed themselves without trading theses resources on a large scale. The products of hunting and fishing being directly consumed by the inhabitants according to their needs.
While the owner of the project E. Degage thinks it is appropriate “to export our wealth”, it is obviously not the same story when you listen to the inhabitants of the Marquises Islands who will have to get used in the coming years to see their traditional fishing ports evolve towards big structures capable to manage the large tuna fishing boats and to see the richness of their ocean soar. It is therefore not surprising that today they express their anger over this project.
What will remain of the wealth of the oceans after the passage of these tuna fleets?
We are obviously entitled to ask this question when we see the damage that can cause industrial fishing around the world.
The Marquesan waters are home to real nurseries of many species of fish. For entire populations of pelagics, the Marquises are an important pantry on migratory routes. Of course, forecasts of a few thousand tons of tuna fish caught by the tuna boats of the project do not compete with the hundreds of thousands of tons caught by tuna boats on the edge of the protected area. Also, if the ocean is empty of these tuna in this specific place, it is not only the local populations who will suffer but perhaps also the whole eco-system that is becoming more and more fragile.
By allowing this massive fishing, policymakers are leaving the door open to the decline of bigeye tuna already reduced by more than 80% in this part of the world because of overfishing, and also increasing poverty on the Marquises Islands where people still feed on hunting and fishing living in communion with their environment
Inexorably, the oceans are getting empty everywhere around the world in a frenzied race to overconsumption without that local people seem to benefit at all.
In 2018, while we are so happy that protected areas and marine parks are being created around the world, it is surprising that such an already preserved place is open to fishing on a large scale, giving us the bitter feeling to go one step back.
Under the guise of job creation, would it not be a maneuver to change the fragile balance of the eco-system of the planet in the indifference from the rest of the world?
Feel free to share your thoughts on this issue in a comment below
Despite everything … do not forget to be happy