TWO Fijians from the Uto ni Yalo joined confrontational anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd yesterday as it sought permission to enter Fiji waters from which it has been banned.
Seru Saumakidonu, 24, and Angelo Smith, 27, parted with the fleet of seven vaka in Honiara and boarded Sea Shepherd trimaran Brigitte Bardot for its Shark Angels campaign in an exchange scheme with the Pacific Voyagers.
The ship left Honiara yesterday for its Shark Angels mission in the South Pacific where it aims to help stop the killing and finning of sharks on the high seas while two of its crew - Nick White and Galen McClery - joined the Uto ni Yalo for New Caledonia today.
Ni-Vanuatu sailor Kalo Nathaniel from the Hine Moana joined the Fijians on the Brigitte Bardot in an attempt to change the perception of sceptical governments which frown upon some of its exploits to stop sea poachers.
Mr Saumakidonu, from Raviravi, Kubulau, Bua, said he was honoured to join the Brigitte Bardot and ready to help save the sharks and the rest of the ocean's endangered species.
"This is an experience I'm looking forward to," he said. "I understand the stand of the Fiji government to stop this group from coming to our waters but I believe in this cause to save our ocean from people who are doing all they can to plunder it.
"My only plea is to some of my people who don't support my decision and the actions taken by this group to intervene when it sees wrong at sea is, please, understand where I am coming from. It's not a radical group but a proactive one, something I feel strongly about."
Mr Saumakidonu, who joined the Uto ni Yalo after it returned from its Pacific voyage in 2010, said it would be a continuation of his work before he joined the Uto on its 50,000km voyage across the Pacific to the Americas, and back home last month.
"My people have a marine reserve at Namena and I worked there to protect it from poachers before the Uto ni Yalo came to Bua where I joined. We worked hard to make it a protected area but poachers still came and most of the time we did not have the right resources to stop their illegal actions."
Mr Smith, from Banaras in Lautoka, said he was sad to leave the Pacific Voyagers but looked forward to "this lifetime opportunity to be on this boat".
"I'm happy to be given the chance to get on this new type of voyage," he added.
Uto ni Yalo captain Jonathan Smith said the exchange scheme between the Shark Angels and the Pacific Voyagers aimed to give participants the chance to share their knowledge on ocean protection and conservation.