USAID’s The Sea That Sustains Us Celebrates Timor Waters’ Richness and Warns about Pollution Threat

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For Immediate Release

Sunday, June 24, 2018
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DILI, TIMOR-LESTE – At the current pace of pollution, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050. This is one of several facts revealed in “The Sea That Sustains Us” – a new environmental film that celebrates the rich biodiversity of Timor-Leste’s waters and calls on people to protect this valuable resource.

“The Sea That Sustains Us” is a 13-minute documentary shot in Tetum with English sub-titles that features regular Timorese addressing the issue of pollution in the ocean. The film, produced by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), connects all Timorese with the ocean and seeks to have them recognize that actions on land affect the ocean’s health. The film received its world premiere on June 8 – World Oceans Day – at Dili's Platinum Cineplex, where about 120 people saw a cinematic version on the big screen.

“We all know Timorese have a strong cultural tie to the ocean,” said United States Ambassador Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick, who welcomed the premiere audience. “For many Timorese, the ocean provides a livelihood, directly through fishing or seaweed farming, or indirectly by attracting tourists. ‘The Sea That Sustains Us’ is a celebration of this important national resource, but it also is a warning and a call to action. Preserving ocean life is a shared responsibility in Timor-Leste – from visiting foreigners, to the government, to all Timorese people.”

Filmed on location at Atauro Island, Dili, Laclubar and Mantuto, “The Sea that Sustains Us” features interviews with homestay tourism operators, seaweed farmers, highland farmers, and fishers who each understand that their practices affect the ocean and those living on the coast. The movie also shows young people committed to beach clean-up and ocean health, demonstrating that Timorese are the solution to pollution.

In addition to showing the movie at the cinema and placing it on the U.S. Embassy and USAID social media pages, USAID developed a discussion guide intended to help audiences better understand the movie and its key points. USAID plans to distribute the 10-question discussion guide and copies of the film throughout Timor-Leste.

“Our aim is to have as many Timorese as possible see and discuss the movie so that individuals and local communities can take action to stop and clean up pollution,” said USAID Environmental Officer Flavia da Silva. “This is a global issue but the solutions start with individuals in their homes and communities.”

USAID developed “The Sea That Sustains Us” after the results of a five-year study of Timor-Leste’s nearshore marine environment by the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The study found Timor-Leste’s waters to be the most biodiverse in the world, noting their relative health but also the presence of plastics pollution and other manmade threats.

Last updated: January 18, 2022

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