Indonesia’s oceans are suffering, says Hamish Daud. Destructive fisheries are depleting marine species, while pollution is choking the seas. “We are all part of this problem, but together we can all be part of the solution,” the actor and environmentalist told Ajeng G. Anindita.
“Sometimes we take for granted what’s in our own backyard, and especially when it’s hidden away beneath the sea,” the Indonesian Ocean Pride website points out. “But under the surface are untold riches that are full of wonder and beauty and sustain our very existence.”
One of the founders of Indonesian Ocean Pride (tagline: “Connecting hearts and pride to the Indonesian oceans”) is actor, documentary series presenter and environmental activist Hamish Daud. The husband of singer, songwriter and actress Raisa Andriana points out that at the heart of where the world’s two largest oceans meet, the Indonesian archipelago is home to the most bio-diverse and thriving marine ecosystems on Earth.
“The 17,000 islands that make up this nation have created a diverse array of unique marine habitats and wonderfully weird species, and whether you realise it or not we all depend on our ocean’s resources,” his project’s website says. “But Indonesia’s oceans are suffering; destructive fisheries are depleting marine species and destroying habitats, and pollution and trash are choking the ocean. We are all part of this problem, but together we can all be a part of the solution.”
A partner in architectural firm saka.id, which has offices in Aceh and Yogyakarta focusing on sustainable development projects, Daud launched Indonesian Ocean Pride at a United Nations international symposium in April. Its mission is to become “a movement to show the world why Indonesia’s oceans are so special; a platform for people to share their ocean stories, inspiring Indonesian people to take pride in their ocean treasures; and a campaign to drive actions that will help save our oceans for the future of Indonesia and the world.”
The handsome 38-year-old celebrity, whose movie career began with 2013’s Rectoverso, aims to harness the voices of top Indonesian and international celebrities, organisations, businesses, artists and scientists “to share the love, reveal the secrets and address the concerns surrounding Indonesia’s oceans. But most importantly Indonesian Ocean Pride is a platform for the public to share their personal ocean experiences, reminding the world that Indonesia has so much to take pride in and so much to lose if we don’t work together to save our oceans.”
Daud has always been passionate about conserving nature. “You could say I grew up in the ocean,” smiles the graduate of Southern Cross University in Australia during an interview at Hotel Monopoli in Kemang. “We lived in Bali and Sumba without electricity, catching fish to eat. I grew up swimming with manta rays and sharks. I learned about and explored the ocean’s condition with my late father and with his team of explorers from the age of 3 years old. As a child, I witnessed something no other country has, that Indonesia has the richest marine ecosystem on the planet.”
Since Daud was a boy, however, the news about the oceans has been bad, and the situation has been getting progressively worse. “I’ve seen the changes that have happened in the last 30 years,” he says sadly and not a little angrily. “I have tried to talk about it. I got involved in entertainment not because I wanted to be known, but because I wanted people to listen to what I have to share about the oceans.
“One thing I have learned about Indonesians is that they don’t like to be lectured to. They don’t want some guy to tell them what they can or cannot do. People have hard lives here. They might think: Why do I have to think about these marine species when I have a wife and two children to take care of? This is a reality I have to face in Indonesia. I have to nd a way to communicate with them.”
Daud’s partners in Indonesian Ocean Pride are Dr. Mark Erdmann, Vice President of Conservation International’s Asia Pacific marine programmes; Shawn Heinrichs, he won an award at the Sundance Festival for his work on the lm ‘Racing Extinction’; and Sarah Lewis, founder of the Indonesian Manta Project. “Dr. Erdmann has discovered about 300 species of ocean life in the last 30 years in Indonesia,” says Daud. “He has dedicated so much of his life to this, he’s basically my hero. You can see Shawn’s amazing work on his website. Meanwhile, Sarah is always looking for new feeding stations and tracking manta.”
Like Daud, Dayu Hatmanti is an ambassador for the project. Being crowned as Miss Scuba International in 2011, with additional titles such as Miss Marine Conservation and Miss Personality, introduced Dayu to the unknown wilderness that is her homeland. Inspired by the beautiful biodiversity, she vowed to become an advocate of marine conservation.
“I was with my partners in our boat somewhere in Papua, doing our research, and we wondered how can we get into Indonesian minds?” says Daud. “Then I said, Indonesia is such a patriotic country. Everyone is so proud to be Indonesian. The price of being Indonesian is a wonderful emotion. So how do I take that energy and shift it to the ocean?”
Indonesian Ocean Pride is going to be an educational platform, says Daud. He and his colleagues plan to make a series of videos. “We’re going to talk about current issues: waste management, combating illegal fishing, creating marine protected areas and establishing sustainable fishing programmes.
“I want kids to watch our videos with their families, I want teachers to watch them with their students. I want millennials to watch them with their lecturers. I want people to understand what’s going on in the oceans, how rich, important and majestic they are, and about the devastation they’ve suffered during the last 20 to 30 years.
“I also want to help Ibu Susi Pudjiastuti, our Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, supporting her new campaign that lets the divers leave their goggles for locals. That way, they have the chance to nd out and explore what’s underneath the water. I’m so proud and excited that Ibu Susi has made her impact. She’s tough and gives us hope. “The pride of being Indonesian is a wonderful emotion. So how do I take that energy and shift it to the ocean?”
“Once people know what’s in the ocean, how beautiful it is, people are going to love it. And once you love and are proud of something, you want to protect it. So instead of telling people what they can and cannot do, I’m doing this out of love. I want people to be proud of what they have. This is not about me trying to get followers, it’s not about people making money. It’s about me showing to people: Hey, you know what, Indonesia is the best place in the world for oceans. You have to have an understanding of what’s here so you can protect it.
“We have just finished our first episode with the girls from Bye Bye Plastic Bag, Melati and Isabel Wijsen. The topic is waste management. People want to go to this beautiful white beach they’ve seen on the billboards. But once they arrive, the beach is full of garbage. It’s not one person’s fault. This is everybody’s fault. The accumulation of single used plastics, there’s a 70 percent chance they are going to end up in the ocean. Once the plastics are in the ocean, they can take up to 500 years to decompose. The movement is about everybody making a small change, consistently. So if we just stop using plastic bags, just bring a bag to the supermarket – it’s a no-brainer.”
The oceans are already so polluted with plastics, is it too late to save them? Daud says there’s a lot of work to do, but that it’s still possible to turn the situation around. “My hope for the oceans is to clean them up, for them to become less acidic, and to have a balanced pH level so that the reefs can rejuvenate themselves. I want the fish to be able to reproduce again.
“I am working with the Misool Foundation in Raja Ampat. We are protecting 1,200 sq km of ocean that used to be bombed by shermen. If projects like this succeed we can get back the productive ocean we used to have. They have gone through 20 years of devastation. Think about it. If you catch 100 tons of fish a day every day, for a decade, chances are they’re going to fade out.
“Now, it’s about understanding what we have. How can you protect something if you don’t understand it? I’m trying to publicly, slowly, spread awareness of people who work hard and dedicate their lives to protecting the oceans. Right now we’re at code red, and we need all the help we can get. I hope we’re at the start of what is going to be a big movement.”
Hamish Daud profile photos by Robin Alfian
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