Respecting the ocean and waterways

The ocean holds a central place of importance in Pacific cultures, serving as a source of sustenance, livelihoods, culture, and traditional spirituality. Te Moananui (literally ‘the large ocean’; the Pacific Ocean) is not merely a physical expanse of water but a living entity with its own power, mana (esteem), and significance. Many ocean-associated Atua work across realms or are more supreme than others. Examples include Tangaroa (Cook Islands, Rapanui, Aotearoa), Kanaloa (Hawai’i), Detora (Nauru), Tagaloa (Samoa), Tangagoa (parts of Solomon Islands), Tagaro (part of Vanuatu), Ta’aroa (Tahiti), Tangaloa (Tonga), Lomotal (Marshal Islands), and Solal (Chuuk). These Atua represent a rich weaving of cultural beliefs and values surrounding Te Moananui, reflecting the intimate relationship between humans and the marine environment, from the coast to the reefs, and the deep waters. The diverse array of Atua associated with the ocean and waters reflects the cultural diversity and interconnectedness of Pacific societies. Each has unique attributes, stories, and rituals shaping collective identities and worldviews of their respective communities. They exemplify the multifaceted ways peoples of Te Moananui Oceania perceive and interact with the ocean, highlighting its enduring importance as a source of cultural heritage, ecological abundance, and spiritual vitality. The following nature-based solutions may be useful in celebrating, regenerating or respecting oceans and waterways.