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FEATURE STORY June 4, 2020

Meet the Innovator from Fiji Protecting our Oceans: Apisalome Movono


Apisalome Movono comes from a long line of navigators, fishermen and warriors of the sea which is where his passion for the ocean comes from. He is a conservationist, academic, activist and oceans advocate from Buca in Fiji and is now a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at Massey University. Apisalome is also one of the first ‘Pacific Oceans Finance Fellows.’

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.

"One thing I’ve adopted through my oceans finance journey is that we can be innovative wherever we are – in finance, in innovating to replace plastic. This is the beauty of human kind, we have the ability to adapt and be innovative, so I’m hopeful."
Apisalome Movono
Senior Lecturer, Massey University


(Photo: supplied)

What does this year’s World Oceans Day theme, “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” mean to you?

For one thing- I’m an optimist, I try to find silver lining in everything. So it inspires hope. We need innovative thinkers amongst all of us. Throughout every level, not just mechanical and plastics specialists but our leaders and others.

One thing I’ve adopted through my oceans finance journey is that we can be innovative wherever we are – in finance, in innovating to replace plastic. This is the beauty of human kind, we have the ability to adapt and be innovative, so I’m hopeful.


Can you tell us about your involvement in the Pacific Ocean Finance Fellowship? 

I’m involved with the Pacific Ocean Finance Fellowship which is a collection of 20 young emerging leaders involved in oceans work in the south pacific region.

We were involved in two workshops, one in Honiara and one in Nadi that were focused on learning to empower and embed the knowledge necessary to develop finance mechanisms to support oceans conservation and oceans issues for long term impact.

Each fellow was expected to come up with plans to implement sustainable finance mechanisms.

What I set out to do is to try to create an innovative finance mechanism that could leverage tourism and it’s financial potential to create finance solutions to empower resorts, owners, and tourism operators to be more responsible custodians of the oceans and look at their impacts and plastics waste.


What drives you to do this work that contributes to ocean health/tackling ocean plastic pollution?

I get motivation from various areas, but for me being closely linked to my community and village is a big one. I feel I have a need to use my talents and gifts to keep our home safe, which is the ocean.

I also receive motivation from nephews, nieces, and my daughters as I contemplate what world they will inherit.

And this is the no brainer, I’m also motivated by the fact that there is no other ocean, there is only one planet, it is our responsibility and obligation to further the betterment of our planet.

Lastly, the satisfaction I have from the little drops in the bucket of seeing people change their behavior. The fulfilment we receive from that is an even bigger motivator.


What message would you like everyone to hear on World Oceans Day 2020?

It is possible. Change for the better is possible.

After COVID-19, this is the time for us to reflect on how we create a paradigm shift for wholesale change to be achieved. We can do it. The ocean’s health can be improved. It’s a complex system but we can invoke change in it.

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**The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.