PNG’s John Aini awarded the 2012 Seacology Prize
15 October 2012
FOR HIS INEXHAUSTIBLE WORK mobilising coastal villages to save their marine resources, Papua New Guinea’s John Aini has been awarded the 2012 Seacology Prize.
Seacology gives the annual award to recognise heroic achievement by people who seldom receive publicity: indigenous leaders who risk their lives and wellbeing to protect their island's ecosystems and culture.
Seacology awarded Mr Aini $10,000 and flew him from Papua New Guinea to Berkeley, California where he was honoured at a ceremony last Thursday.
While working for the PNG National Fishing Authority in the 1980s, John Aini realised that the fish stock around his home province of New Ireland was on the decline.
If this trend continued, Aini feared that the coastal villages on the islands in New Ireland which relied on the fish for their livelihood would be in trouble.
As is often the case in developing countries, there were few effective institutions that could help, so Aini had to get creative.
In his own free time, he began travelling by boat and truck to as many villages around New Ireland as he could, giving presentations on the need for villagers to use their natural resources sustainably and resist harmful commercial fishing efforts.
In 1993, Aini formalized these ‘Awareness Roadshows’ by launching Ailan Awareness (AA), which now helps villages develop marine resource management plans and has recently established the Marine Resource Management school to educate and inspire the province’s young people.
By empowering coastal communities to manage marine resources, AA aims to protect the people and reefs of New Ireland for future generations.
The impact of AA on the province has been profound according to Dr Bruce Harris, an anthropologist working in PNG.
“Ailan Awareness has contributed more than any other organisation in New Ireland – private sector, civil society or governmental – to the preservation of marine resources for the benefit of the people who have lived in harmony with and depended on those resources for millennia," Dr. Harris said.
"By working directly with coastal villagers to manage the marine resources they depend on, Aini has done so much to help the people and protect the reefs of New Ireland for generations to come," said Duane Silverstein, Seacology's executive director.
“This award signals that the world recognises our efforts to contribute in our little ways to sustaining our people’s livelihoods in changing and trying times,” John Aini said. “Our sincere and most heartfelt gratitude on behalf of the people of New Ireland and Papua New Guinea for this recognition.”
Congratulations to John Aini for his work to educate local communities and help to manage and conserve their marine ecosystem and biodiversity.
As a Lecturer of the National Fisheries College of Papua New Guinea, John Aini is a 'Mentor' to many of us students. He has implanted in us his knowledge and experience and, challenged us to help manage and conserve our marine resources, ecosystem and biodiversity for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.
Last year (2011), four of us students were privileged to do our six months Student Internship program with Ailan Awareness (John's NGO organization) for which we have learned and experienced so much about the work of Conservationists and Managers of the Marine Ecosystem, Biodiversity and Resources.
We salute and applaud Mr. John Aini.
Posted by: Jamie A. Leo (from Solomon Islands) | 30 October 2012 at 09:36 AM
We need the John Ainis and Manuai Matawais and many more brave men like them to do likewise.
Coastal people of PNG, like Manus and New Ireland and others, depend on fish.
Yet the PNG government allows the greedy mining companies to pump mining waste into the ocean and destroy the fish which these people lives depend on.
Pure madness. Rocks in their heads I'll say.
Posted by: Chalapi Pomat | 15 October 2012 at 05:57 PM
Congratulations to John Aini for his work with "Ailan Awareness" to help the coastal villages of New Ireland to preserve and manage their marine resources.
I think this John Aini is the one who graduated from Keravat National High School in 1981 when I was there. I remember his name well.
Having spent 1982-83 at Manggai High School on New Ireland I have many happy memories of the local seafood and the many coastal villages up and down the coasts of New Ireland. I know how important the fish is to the diet of the local people.
I used to lend my utility to my Deputy Head and he would repay me with reef fish. Eat as much lobster as you could for $5 at the local eating places. Happy memories!
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 15 October 2012 at 07:20 AM