The SEASMART program is doing great things not only in the marine aquarium industry but is having quite an impact on the people of Papua New Guinea in many positive ways. As part of the exposure SEASMART is bringing to the aquarium industry here at MACNA, a few local PNG residents have made the trek – some for the first time ever coming to the United States – to spread the word on what the program is accomplishing.
We had the chance to sit down with a two gentlemen, Philip Sokou and Simeon Daple, both PNG natives who are part of the Resource Assessment and Management (RAM) team at SEASMART to discuss what they are doing and how they see the impact of the program in their home country. In over two years, the pair has thousands of dives and hours under their belts surveying the reefs all over the country.
Philip Sokou is a graduate of the University of Papua New Guinea and joined the program in 2007 as part of the initial survey team conducting a feasibility study for PNG to begin developing a marine ornamental industry – something that has never existing for PNG. After seeing the potential of what SEASMART could offer his country, Sokou not only gained vast experience but the drive to do more.
“I was able to learn many skills with the surveys, field work and diving and I decided I wanted to do more, to join in and help,” says Sokou. “I never pulled back and this program was such a big thing to me. The fishermen and local people from all the communities saw this from a new, sustainable perspective and understanding the importance of this message. It really benefits the local community as a whole and so many people have helped out.”
He is beginning to see not only local communities get involved but as a university graduate he is seeing more interns and other recent graduates jump in and join the effort to take the lessons they are learning and apply it to the benefit of the local community, economy and spirit of the people.
Simeon Daple also sees the benefits of the work SEASMART is doing, especially compared to over conservation efforts going on in PNG and other parts of the world. As an environmental scientist with a minor marine biology background, Daple worked for the International Wildlife Conservation Society for three years before starting out with SEASMART two years ago.
“It is a really good concept. I see the progress at the local community level especially compared to other conservation efforts I’ve been involved with,” says Paple. “We get a lot more participation and with the training people are feeling more like owners of the resources. There is a lot more sense of ownership with everyone and to the people PNG that is a huge thing.
“It is a good feeling to be a part of the first marine program like this. Being one of the first to lean about it is a big thing to me. Not a lot of people in PNG knew about it and being one of the first is a great thing,” Daple adds.
You can see the passion and inspiration both Philip and Simeon share about the success the SEASMART program is bringing to the people of their country and it is invigorating and contagious. We really appreciate the efforts of this program showing how countries can successfully not only bring sustainable efforts to their natural resources but help keep the local community involved and profit from the new, sustainable industry that is evolving. Look forward to more glimpses into the progress the SEASMART program and the people of PNG are having right here at Reef Builders.