Greenpeace voyage eye opener

By Amy McGillivray

Travelling halfway around the world during four months aboard a sailing ship has left Dominico Zapata more determined than ever to help change the world.

The Mount Maunganui man was on the Rainbow Warrior III as part of a Greenpeace Indian Ocean campaign.

"It was mainly a research campaign," he said. "It was to try to cut out pirate fishing in the Indian Ocean and look at creating a series of marine reserves."

The trip began in Durban, South Africa, in September. The 60m-long ship then sailed to Mozambique, Mauritius, the Maldives and Sri Lanka during the next two months.

Mr Zapata remained aboard for the final five-week transit to New Zealand and anchored in the Bay of Islands earlier this month.

He has previously chained himself to a ship anchor in protest at the use of palm kernel and covered himself in molasses to highlight the issue of deep-sea oil drilling.

Mr Zapata spent the first half of the trip working as assistant chef and the second half as a deckhand.

It was his first long-distance ocean-sailing experience and a trip he will never forget. "The highlight for me was getting to surf and dive in places that not a lot of people have actually gone to and just getting to see the amazing beauty of what's out there and the need to protect it. That was what really impressed upon me - the importance of the work we're doing and getting involved and making sure it's preserved for future generations."

Not only did Mr Zapata find out about the struggles of the local people in his travels but he found a lot could be learnt from them.

In Mauritius fishermen were struggling to survive with the competition from large foreign commercial companies, he said.

"That was quite sad actually because it put so much pressure on local communities that they are not able to sustain themselves in the traditional way they have been able to for hundreds if not thousands of years."

In the Maldives fishermen still successfully fished the way they had for centuries - with pole and line. Mr Zapata said that was much more target specific and eco-friendly than the way commercial operations fished.

"The Maldives was really cool as not only is it about people only taking what you need but they are also showing the world what is possible with sustainable fish management."

Seeing first hand the amount of shark finning going on also left an impression on Mr Zapata.

"In Sri Lanka, going into the markets there and seeing the amount of shark finning going on, you really start to empathise with this creature which people have a sort of barbaric notion of," he said.

Despite all the sights he saw, Mr Zapata said New Zealand was still the most beautiful place to sail into. "That really just impressed upon me the need to preserve it and not just pay lip service to the clean, green, 100 per cent pure image that's not really true at all," he said.

Mr Zapata is now looking to his next campaign - stopping seismic surveying near Raglan, the home of the rare Maui dolphin.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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