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FEATURE STORY June 4, 2020

Meet the Innovator Protecting Our Oceans in the Federated States of Micronesia: Jasmine Mendiola

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Jasmine Mendiola has always been fascinated by the ocean from her childhood home next to rich ocean life to studying marine science and leading NGO behavior change work for ocean conservation in the Federated States of Micronesia. Now Jasmine is focused on building a better environment, a better life for her people, and leading by example through sustainability, commitment and passion for a healthier ocean.

Tell us about yourself 

I am a proud Micronesian descendent. My father, Francisco Weilbacher Mendiola, is half Kosraean, half Chamorro; and my late mother, Emirose Anson Elanzo, was half Marshallese, half Pohnpeian. So I’m a mix of a several Micronesian islands, but was born and raised in Pohnpei. I have four siblings, I’m married with an 11-year-old daughter.

My interest in the ocean has always been a part of me. I grew up spending a good portion of my life in the ocean, and on a small atoll called Black Coral or Kehpara which used to be the largest grouper spawning aggregation site in the Indo-Pacific region. This was my first marine biology class – snorkeling and observing all the biodiversity thrive freely all around me. It may have been a hobby back then, I only realized it would be my fate in college when I took marine science courses. I enjoyed it so much, especially the field work, that it didn’t feel like ‘school’. So I chose marine science as my major at the College of Micronesia and have stayed on it since then.

 

Can you tell us about your work? How does your work help to promote and maintain oceans health? What is innovative about it? 

After I graduated I finally found my place at the Marine and Environmental Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP), a local NGO that promotes livelihoods of community members through research and sustainable aquaculture.

After over five years of tremendous growth at MERIP I decided to take on a challenge with an offer I received from an organization called Rare. I am currently working there as the Senior Program Implementation Manager for Micronesia, focusing on implementing a project called Fish Forever – establishing sustainable fisheries through behavior change.

Fish Forever is an effort to promote an ecosystem-based management approach where essentially, we empower networks of communities to take the lead in managing their inshore fisheries. This approach is, to my understanding, the first of its kind in Micronesia where the strategies are centered around behavioral change and creating enabling conditions to help push this behavior change.

 

Are you involved in other conservation work?

I did and still continue to do a lot of education and awareness in areas like marine conservation, fisheries management, climate change and love being an environmental steward. I have represented my country in other places in the world in capacity and leadership building. I volunteer a lot of my time and energy in helping build a more sustainable and resilient community by supporting other youths in their efforts.

I’ve always focused my time and energy on doing things that matter, and I’ve found that I am most effective in achieving that with what I have been doing and continue to do – building a better environment, better home, better life for my people, through leading by example. 


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Jasmine cleaning clam cages

(Photo: supplied)


What comes to your mind when you think of the ocean? What does it mean to you personally?

When I think about the ocean I think about peace, joy, escape, tranquility, freedom and all the other thoughts that just sets your mind at ease.

Besides my kids (daughter, nieces and nephews), the ocean is my favorite thing in the world. A good portion of my life has been spent in the sea.

I cannot possibly imagine my life without the ocean being a part of it.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our oceans in 2020?

Other than plastic and other types of solid waste, I’ve always seen sustainability as a challenge. We continue to exploit resources from the ocean, sometimes as though they are infinite. At the same time, the ocean is becoming more acidic since it’s absorbing so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then there’s sea level rise from melting ice glaciers. That is a major threat to our Pacific low-lying islands. Sustainability of the ocean itself and everything that comes with it is threatened if we don’t change the way we use and treat it.

 

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

It means being able to come up with ways to enjoy all the resources and benefits that the ocean provides without jeopardizing its health; making the best use of it in a way that doesn’t threaten its quality.

 

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

Ultimately, whether directly or indirectly, we all depend on the ocean. I hope that everyone remembers this and treats the ocean like our survival depends on it - because it does.


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