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Inspiring a new generation of ocean advocates in St Helena

Julie Thomas shares insights from IPNLF's community engagement programme in St Helena and her work to educate the next generation

The importance of community

Across the globe, one-by-one tuna fisheries contribute to the wellbeing of coastal communities. They're embedded in local customs and culture, with many dating back centuries. Yet, such attributes are oft-overlooked in the broader sustainability conversation.

To ensure that the social and environmental elements of one-by-one tuna fisheries are championed, IPNLF works throughout tuna supply chains, from the fishing communities on the ground all the way to the brands and retailers. With this in mind, I am pleased to share with you a great example of community engagement happening in our network of one-by-one tuna fisheries.

St Helena's one-by-one tuna fishery

In St Helena, one of the most remote islands in the world, we've been working with the local fishing community to help establish the world’s first one-by-one only tuna fishing zone out to 200 nautical miles, creating a massive marine conservation area to protect whales, dolphins, sea turtles and the island’s seasonal aggregation of majestic whale sharks. This initiative is widely supported throughout the island, including by fishers, fishing businesses, government, scientists and NGOs.

Another group of stakeholders that are not always consulted in management decisions is the next generation, but they are such an important part of the equation. So, to educate, celebrate and champion these fisheries, I visited all three primary schools and one of the secondary schools on the island to get the student's perspective on our efforts.

An island-wide campaign

The students from around St Helena were so enthusiastic about the fishery and about the importance of committing to one-by-one fishing to protect the ocean, while catching tuna sustainably. Following my assembly presentations, we organised an island-wide art competition where students were invited to submit letters, poems, interviews, posters, drawings and more to celebrate St Helena’s one-by-one tuna fishery.

I am pleased to report that our competition attracted over 120 entries, which was nothing short of overwhelming. Entries showcased incredible talent, were thought provoking, heartfelt and extremely creative.

A panel of five judges considered every one of the entries and 23 winners across different age groups and schools were selected. The artwork has been displayed in St Helena’s Museum as part of a special exhibition showcasing the fantastic talent of the local students, as well as to celebrate our local fishery. Winners were also treated to a well-deserved prize - a day out at sea to witness first-hand the sea life that our one-by-one fishery protects. Students encountered a large pod of pan tropical spotted dolphins; two commercial boats undertaking one-by-one fishing; a whale shark; nesting seabirds; a devil ray and a sea turtle over the course of a few hours in the Atlantic Ocean.

I would like to thank a number of people who made this competition such a huge success: the students for participating and sharing their creative talents; the staff of all three primary schools and Prince Andrew School; the parents and guardians for encouraging their child/children to participate in the competition; all five judges; Johnny Herne and his team for making our trip so memorable and successful; the competition winners, whose performance onboard the Enchanted Isle is to be commended; those parents and guardians who entrusted us with their children; SAMS Radio 1; Jeremy Johns for accompanying us on the trip to collect media footage; and lastly to Beth Taylor, Marine Project Manager for National Trust for being an enormous support throughout. Thank you!