The Hokule‘a’s Malama Honua voyage on water has ended, but organizers look to continue the mission on land starting with a three-day summit and festival at the Hawai‘i Convention Center that concludes today.
Panels of explorers, conservationists and world leaders spoke Monday of the urgent need to protect marine resources and live more sustainably.
“We are all right now at a crossroads. … Never again is it likely that we’ll have the chance to take us from this depressing time of loss to a time of recovery,” oceanographer and pioneering deep-sea explorer Sylvia Earle, who joined the Hokule‘a at several points during the voyage, told a crowd of several hundred gathered in a convention ballroom.
“It’s still happening,” Earle said of climate change and runaway pollution. “Even though we know better, we’re not doing better.”
Outside, members of the public explored exhibits related to the Hokule‘a’s journey and waited in lines as long as 40 minutes to tour the canoe, which crews managed to get under the low Ala Wai Bridge and then dock next to the convention center. Many of those who had sailed on the Hokule‘a in the past three years manned the booths.
It was the latest in a string of conservation-themed summits to take place at the convention center in the past year, including the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, the Japan-U.S. International Symposium for Ocean Conservation (which featured Japan’s first lady, Akie Abe) and the World Conservation Congress.
“This trip will go down in history. It’s a historic, epic journey … and the message really is that the ocean has got to be respected,” Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. told the audience. “It’s about making sure that the resources are there,” such as bluefin and yellowfin tuna, whose numbers are drastically shrinking at an unsustainable rate, he said.
Palau has partnered with the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia to conserve 30 percent of those nations’ nearshore resources and 20 percent of the nearby land resources — an effort dubbed the Micronesia Challenge.
Palau has gone further, Remengesau said, by creating a marine sanctuary in its territorial waters the size of France that’s “no-take,” prohibiting any kind of fishing whatsoever.
Other speakers included explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and the Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, the daughter of South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Also on the panel was German philanthropist Dieter Paulmann, whose Okeanos Foundation for the Sea built a modern Pacific “waka” canoe fleet that includes the Hikianalia, the Hokule‘a’s escort vessel. Paulmann aims to build as many as 50 sailing canoes that can serve a vital interisland transportation need across the Pacific Ocean, Okeanos staff said.