Apisalome’s journey has taken him to Australia where he completed a PhD in tourism and sustainability, back to Fiji to work with the not-for-profit he co-founded, the Laucala Beach Sustainability Society. Apisalome is also one of the first ‘Pacific Oceans Finance Fellows’. The fellowship program is designed to help scale up action on ocean finance initiatives in Pacific Islands Governments, institutions and communities. It is part of the Pacific Regional Oceanscape Program (PROP) - funded by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility - and implemented through the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Association and the Office of the Pacific Ocean’s Commissioner.
Tell us about yourself
Where I’m from is the pathway to my passion for the ocean.
I’m an indigenous Fijian from Buca, Natewa district, in Cakudrove. It’s a coastal community and I come from a long line of navigators, fishermen and warriors of the sea.
My forebears and ancestors were wayfinders and people who were very closely connected to the ocean - so my passion and interest has always been vested in the ocean space.
I have an education background in marine affairs and tourism studies and I did a masters in the socio-economic impact of tourism and then I went to Brisbane to do a PhD in tourism management with a focus on coastal communities, and how they may be able to increase their resilience.
I worked at the University of South Pacific, starting as a graduate assistant and then moved to lecturing. After that I went to complete my PhD and I returned to Fiji. I always felt an obligation to return and give back through a small not for profit I co-founded, the Laucala Beach Sustainability Society. I knew my passion was in teaching and research so I continued to pursue academia.
Now I’m a senior lecturer at the Institute of Development Studies at Massey University – I took up this position earlier this year.
You could call me a man of the deep blue, perhaps I was a fish in another life…
What comes to your mind when you think of the ocean? What does it mean to you personally?
To me, it’s everything. It’s where we’ve come from and it’s where we will go. We depend on it, the currents, winds, everything, it is all connected to the ocean. If there is one thing, object or being on this planet that connects everybody, it is the oceans, and water. Water from rivers in New Zealand have been on the Himalayas as clouds and rain, it is the one element that connects us all.
But I am saddened by the way people interact, treat and refer to the ocean, like it’s a dumping ground. It is where people plunder and pillage and seek their fortune. It should not be like that. It’s our common property, that holds our common future, we should manage and sustain it together.
The biggest fear I have is one day the oceans will be lost.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our oceans in 2020?
It has to be marine pollution. Other things, rising sea levels, ocean acidification - are difficult to control, but where we can have an impact is managing plastics issues.
I’ve seen used diapers clogging reefs and plastics in the guts of sea turtles.
In 2020 we have to put this in people’s minds, visually, and mentally through better education - we have to act on this marine pollution, particularly plastic pollution.