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"Collaboration with the Sea Forum" draws huge audience

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-10-30

The "Okinawa Times" commemorated their 50th anniversary this year with the "Okinawa "International Ocean Forum" on Saturday, October 24, at the Pacific Hotel in Naha. The forum's theme, "Collaboration with the Sea", focused on the fragile relationship between humans and the ocean.

Approximately 600 people packed the Pacific Hotel's conference room and listened to six different panelists give their opinions on how to better manage our ocean's resources. Many of the people were young university students, who had come to see former "World Free Diving Champion" Jacque Mayol.

Mayol, who was the first free diver to dive over a 100 meters, is well known for his character portrayal in the French film "Grand Blue". He has amazed scientists with his breath-holding capabilities, and he has brought much attention to the sport of free diving around the world. Mayol is also a popular author, and his books have documented his strong connection with dolphins and whales. His popularity has initiated much support for marine conservation, and he has spent much of his latter career speaking on the subject.

"We are not ancestors of apes," were Mayol's opening remarks. He went on to say that our mistake in believing the opposite was mostly the responsibility of Charles Darwin. Mayol was bringing up a very important fact, which many of us have forgotten: life began in the sea. "Nowadays children all over the world are not listening to Darwin, their parents, or the schools. They want to listen to their instincts. They want to become Homo Delphinus," said Mayol referring to humans and the mammal he feels closest to - the dolphin. "Man is capable of returning to the ocean, almost like our brothers the dolphin," he continued.

Mayol captured the ears of the audience, as well as the other panelists. He believes if humans do not change their way of thinking about the environment, that we will eventually be eliminated from the earth. He is very against exploitation of the sea for profit, both by large multi-nationals and individuals. He spoke of going beyond science to get a better understanding of the sea. "The dolphins and the whales know everything about the ocean. They can teach our scientists about the ocean, so lets listen to them," he said. "Man may become less scientific and more wise."

Other guest speakers included Newscaster, Tetsuya Chikushi, Keisuke Taira of Tokyo University's Ocean Research Institute, Professor Masaaki Kimura of the University of the Ryukyu's Department of Physics and Sciences, Fumiko Fukuoka of Conservation International, and Senzo Uchida, who is the Director of Okinawa's Expo Aquarium.

Chikushi lead the conversations, asking panelists their opinions on different topics, himself adding very in-depth insights into our relationship with the sea.

Fumiko Fukuoka gave a short presentation on RAP (Rapid Assessment Program), which has helped to set up special projects abroad. RAP helped locals in the Philippines develop a viable zoning plan, which was implemented to combat the problem of reef destruction from dynamite fishing. Fukuoka is promoting Conservation International's goals to Japan and other countries in Asia, and also spoke of the strong relationship between land and sea. "The forests and the oceans are like lovers to each other. The ocean remains pristine only if the forests remain pristine," she said quoting a very popular belief.

Litter was another major topic of discussion with Senzo Uchida showing hard evidence of how trash in our oceans has been responsible for the death of much marine life. Vivid slides of dolphin and whale intestines being clogged with plastic, which was mistaken for food and had killed the mammals, gave the audience an up-close look at the real dangers litter can cause. Senzo called for more education and an all out campaign by the government to change the bad habit of littering among Japanese people.

Professor Kimura, who has been studying the Yonaguni monument (Japan Update Oct 1-7 Cover Story Vol 12 No. 39) related his findings to the important cultural link of Okinawa and the ocean. His theory is strongly supported by Mayol, who also believes the monument is manmade.

The common theme among all panelists was that our oceans must be protected, and there must be a balance between development and conservation. However, Mayol seemed to sum up the feelings of most of the audience by again stating that we have become to dependent on scientific data, to concerned with material things, and that we have lost the connection that humans once had with the sea.

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