Return to Ocean Rights and Kinship Alliance [ORKA]

We are the Ocean, and the Ocean is us

The Ocean Rights and Kinship Alliance (ORKA) is a network of people working to uphold and defend the fundamental rights of the ocean.  Our members come from all corners of the Pacific Ocean, and beyond.  We emphasise the diversity of our cultural and genealogical connections to the ocean, and the importance of maintaining this diversity.

ORKA’s goals are:

  • To connect people who work with ocean rights and kinship as a conceptual framework, to share ideas with each other, and to collaborate on practical initiatives.
  • To normalise the idea of kinship/oceanhood as a basis for decision-making.
  • To learn from people and communities who understand ocean kinship through their own traditional practices.

ORKA began as a two-day workshop in November 2018, convened in Auckland by the late Sue Taei.  The purpose of the workshop was to draw on emerging legal thought around the rights of nature and legal personhood, and think about how these could be applied to the ocean – both within and across national jurisdictions.  Workshop participants created a statement of our collective thinking, which you can read here:

We are the Ocean and the Ocean is us. The Ocean is our source of life, our family and blood. All Earth’s systems and beings are related and interdependent. The Ocean has authority (mana) and life force (mauri).

The Ocean is foundational to all life. We can address the fundamental changes needed if we respect the Ocean and all she contains. At no time in human history has this been needed more, with overfishing, climate change, plastics and pollution cumulatively impacting her health.

We have a responsibility and obligation to conserve, protect and defend the rights of the Ocean; the rights of past, present and future generations of all beings rely on respect for the rights of the Ocean.

The Ocean is not property or a resource, nor solely here for human benefit. We do not own the Ocean. She is an entity, with rights including but not limited to: the right to exist, thrive and evolve, the right to integral health, the right to be free of pollution and a healthy, functioning climate system, the right to restoration and regeneration, and to continue her vital functions and cycles.

Despite the multitude of laws designed to protect and conserve the Ocean, the dominant anthropocentric values, and legal and economic frameworks and practices, have resulted in escalating degradation. We aim to accelerate a transformational shift in our behavioral, societal, legal, governance and economic relationships in order to live in harmony with the Ocean.

We acknowledge our KINSHIP with the Ocean. We must shift from rights to the ocean towards responsibilities and obligations to the Ocean.

We emphasize that our governance systems must recognize and protect the rights of the Ocean in a culturally appropriate way that builds on, and is compatible with, the shared values and beliefs of Pacific peoples. In light of the recognition of the Oceans rights, we acknowledge the Ocean is a living being and that we are her guardians.