Teri Tuxson, Assistant Network Coordinator (LMMA)
When you remember the Fiji of your childhood, what strikes you as a major change?
When I was a kid, it seemed like people cared more for their surroundings and their environment, civic pride was higher than it is today. Especially here in Suva, pollution is out of control, and it starts with the little things, throwing something out the bus window, which will eventually end up in the ocean. Some days, it seems an uphill battle to try and make a change.
There were also a lot more environment and litter awareness campaigns than there are today – in the schools and in the media – enabling our youth to connect with their environment and take greater ownership over their surroundings, I feel like we’ve lost a lot of that. I think we each have a responsibility to our environment, to our families, and to one another, and that used to be inherent in our Pacific culture’ living in the city, it is more obvious that part of our traditional ways are dying.
Your mother is from Rotuma, what have been your links with this island, do you still go and how are fishing communities doing there?
Growing up, we went quite often at Christmas because we have a lot of family that still live on the island, and also before COVID-19 we would try to go once a year. When I returned from my undergrad studies, I was a volunteer with the LajeRotuma Initiative, a non-profit working with communities, traditional leaders, women’s groups, and school students on the island. The initiative currently serves as an entry point for foreign scientists wanting to conduct research on the island. In the beginning, the LajeRotuma Initiative had a marine focus and we did a lot of community engagement about maintaining the health of marine resources, and I was lucky enough to be part of the dive team that surveyed the island’s reefs to determine the health of the inshore marine environment. Rotuma is interesting in that it actually doesn’t need much in the way of marine conservation and management efforts. This is because fishing pressure is quite low there, the reefs are healthy, and there isn’t a lot of fiishing occurring that warrants full-on management initiatives.
Of course, there are always areas where things can be improved but the island communities aren’t suffering from a decrease in marine resources, like in many other places in Fiji.
I see you that you have spent six years working on super-yachts all over the world? What were your responsibilities and what made you eventually come back to Fiji?
I was employed as deck crew, which is mostly a male-dominated position, starting as deckhand, working my way up to bosun, then finally as mate, earning my licence to drive 200-tonne boats. Working on deck, you are responsible for navigational watches and helping the captain drive the ship, maintain the exterior of the vessel and all tenders, and as mate, you’re also responsible for crew management and logistics. It was a great experience, traveling to exotic places, meeting interesting people, but I really missed working in conservation, I missed the Pacific, and I wanted to be back helping my community, and while it was fun and enabled me to travel, I felt unfulfilled. I’m much happier now that I’m back in Fiji and working with Pacific communities.