John Aini: 2012 Seacology Prize Winner
For his tireless work mobilizing coastal villages to save their marine resources, Papua New Guinea’s John Aini has been awarded the 2012 Seacology Prize, given every year to an islander for exceptional achievement in preserving the environment and culture of his or her home island.*About John Aini*While working for the National Fishing Authority in the 1980s, Aini realized 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 Province who relied on the fish for their livelihood would be in trouble. As is often the case in developing countries, there were few effective institutions who could help. So Aini had to get creative. In his own free time, Aini began traveling by boat or truck to as many villages around New Ireland Province as he could, giving presentations on the need for villages to use their natural resources sustainably and resist harmful commercial fishing efforts.In 1993, Aini formalized these “Awareness Roadshows” by launching Ailan Awareness (AA), an NGO that has grown to feature a variety of initiatives. AA now helps villages develop marine resource management plans, and the organization recently created the Marine Resource Management school to educate and inspire the province’s young people. By empowering coastal communities to manage the marine resources they depend upon, AA aims to protect both 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 Papua New Guinea. “Ailans Awareness has contributed more than any other organization 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," said Dr. Harris.«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.Filmed and produced by Stefan Ruenzel. Additional underwater footage provided by Wade Fairley.