For World Oceans Day 2002, Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares, ‘Deng’ to her colleagues, family and friends, Board Member of Q-quatics and Project Manager of the Sea Around Us, was one of the selected few researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries to be featured on their video series which highlights their exceptional contributions to collective action for ocean health and words of wisdom from decades and chains of research and collaborations.
In this interview and video, Dr. Palomares expressed her expert advice on knowledge sharing from a historical context, the importance of respecting local knowledge and for the local communities to take pride in their own efforts to save their coastal environments, as ways to overcome roadblocks and in order to capacitate other researchers who are striving to pitch in to resolve this pressing global concern.
Knowledge is freedom. Having it and making use of it builds capacities.
This article originally appeared on the UBC – IOF’s website.
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Earth’s oceans are being severely damaged by climate change, pollution, overfishing and other destructive, human-caused shockwaves.
To restore the oceans, and prevent their health from deteriorating further, decision makers and knowledge creators around the world must act together, and quickly—hence the theme of this year’s UN World Oceans Day: “Revitalization: collective action for the oceans.”
We asked IOF researchers how their research contributes to collective action for ocean health, what they have found are the biggest roadblocks to collaboration between groups, and how we can overcome these obstacles.
Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares (Deng Palomares)
Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares—who goes by “Deng”— is a senior scientist and project manager with the Sea Around Us initiative at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF).
She works on three massive online databases that contain information about all known fish species in the world (FishBase), all other marine organisms (SeaLifeBase), and all global fisheries catch (Sea Around Us).
These platforms spur collective action for ocean health by making information about fish, marine life and fisheries freely available to anyone with internet access.
“This in part solves the issue of accessibility of scientific results,” Dr. Palomares said. “We’ve also, via social media, built discussion forums into the databases. This encourages users to share knowledge and experience to help us improve these information systems, and maybe even improve management of our marine resources.”
Dr. Palomares grew up in the Philippines during the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos. She believes oppressive states are a threat to humanity’s efforts to steward natural resources sustainably, and to take collective action.
“Corrupt and oppressive governments whose aim is to enrich themselves, funnel money out of government budgets, away from environmental programs,” she said.
She added that the instability and environment of mistrust inflicted by these governments makes good environmental management impossible.
Another major challenge that prevents collective action both between and within nations is poverty, she said.
“Poverty creates an impenetrable wall to the acquisition of knowledge,” she said. “In the Philippines, where the poorest of the poor live in the coastal areas, it would be difficult to convince people not to go out fishing. This is their source of food, cheap food, and their source of living. They will not understand people asking them to stop, for example, trawl fishing.”
To combat this problem, we must share knowledge about how to keep ecosystems healthy, Palomares said. However, solutions to trawl fishing, overfishing, ocean pollution, and other obstacles won’t come by forcefully managing the resources of developing nations. Instead, they must be rooted in the local knowledge and needs of the people who rely on fish for survival.
“They need to take pride in their own efforts to save their coastal environments.”