By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
May 2, 2016
Pohnpei, FSM—Today, on World Tuna Day, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Secretariat announced that the FSM’s own Jasmine Mendiola had won the top prize for her poem entitled Teach Your Children.. Her poem was selected from entries received from citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
In 2011, PNA Ministers declared May 2 to be World Tuna Day, a special day for all who are involved in tuna fishing and tuna conservation and management to celebrate the wonders of tuna with communities around the world. Since 2012, PNA has run the World Tuna Day Art and Talent Quest to profile the unique relationship local people have with tuna and its diverse artistic and cultural heritage.
The contest requested entries of poetry or short stories, pictures of artwork, short films or filmed music, dance or drama performances on the themes of Pacific Tuna in the wild, tuna and local cultures and lifestyles, Pacific ways of fishing for Tuna, or islanders working together to conserve and manage tuna.
Mendiola’s poem brilliantly touched on every single one of the topics in a heart touching way. She won the top prize of $3000 for her work.
Mendiola has long been what some might call an over-achiever. She was Salutatorian of her Elementary School class at Pohnpei Seventh Day Adventist School, Valedictorian of PICS High School, and twice, Valedictorian at the College of Micronesia where she studied Marine Sciences. After several prestigious internships she was selected as the Assistant Director of the Marine and Environmental Research Institute of the Pacific (MERIP) in Pohnpei.
She says that she has had a conservation mindset since she was in High School when she worked as a volunteer with the Conservation Society of Pohnpei.
She certainly comes by it honestly. Her uncle was the great Dakio Paul, who many consider to be the father of FSM Marine Protected areas. In the 1990’s, after facing government resistance, Paul declared Black Coral (Kehpara) to be closed to fishing, grabbed a shotgun and for three years patrolled the area in a small boat powered by a 15 horsepower motor, firing warning blasts when fishermen encroached on the waters. Before long, fishermen noticed an increase of fish in the area and the surrounding reefs and that changed everything.