Fisheries leaders mark passing of Tokelau colleague, global oceans advocate

Funafuti, TUVALU Tuesday 30th June 2015-- Fisheries leaders at the 11th Ministerial meeting opening sessions in Tuvalu this morning, observed a short silence to honour their former colleague and global oceans champion Foua Toloa. The former Faipule and Ulu o Tokelau, who went on to become the Pacific delegate to the Global Oceans Commission, passed away earlier this month in the United States. Calling for a moment’s silence, Tuvalu’s Fisheries Minister and FFC MIN 11 Chair Elisala Pita also recalled key moments in Toloa’s lifetime career on the oceans—a career which began on the rugby field. The only Tokelauan ever to be selected for the Manu Samoa rugby team, Toloa’s towering stature and his rugby prowess came to the attention of Samoa national selectors while he was playing on the USP team during his Alafua days, taking him into Samoa’s national Manu Samoa squad.

“He was a big man and of course, as many came to know, you would not want to be in front of him when he gets the ball,” noted Minister Pita.

Balancing sports with his vocational calling, Foua Toloa was to go straight into leading Tokelau’s Agriculture and Fisheries as Director after his graduation. He drove broader engagement for Tokelau in regional fisheries and eventually set up a diving business in Apia, taking his services and contracts across the region. Tuvalu was one of the many Pacific nations where Toloa was called to do extensive diving instruction and training in Funafuti.

By the early 90's, Foua was back at the helm in Tokelau, as Director of Economic Development, his last official posting for the nation before he turned to traditional leadership. By early 2000, he was the Faipule of Fakaofo, eventually becoming the Ulu of Tokelau. He served as Faipule for six years, gradually withdrawing from public life to focus on managing his illness and to spend time with his family.

“To the end, Foua Toloa remained passionate about three things: He was very passionate about fisheries, very passionate about the oceans, and very passionate about Tokelau.

This passion and the calling to work in the area of fisheries and Oceans earned him a rare honour, one that helped bring the region to the world stage in Oceans work. Foua served as the only Pacific commissioner in a group of global Commissioners for the South Africa based Ocean Commission. Their advocacy focus on protecting the high seas from overfishing and other challenges was an ideal fit for his love of the ocean. Foua Toloa is survived by his wife Logo, and their four children. 

Foua Toloa