Blue Growth blog

A True Champion for animals and for the environment


Joanna Toole

The whole world knows about the fate that befell Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 the morning of Sunday, March 10th. Despite media efforts, we do not all know the many and varied stories behind the 157 names on the list of those that met their fate in that terrible accident. We do not know their sense of purpose in life, their dreams and aspirations, and we can only imagine the sorrow that their families and friends experience now that they are no longer with us. Those that follow the events and want to know can guess, imagine and get close to knowing, but will never understand completely the feelings of others.

Joanna Toole, a member of my staff in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, was amongst the passengers that perished in the accident in Ethiopia. Joanna was on duty travel to represent FAO at UNEA, including directing an event on “Sea-based Sources of Marine Litter” which was part of her work at FAO to develop a global capacity programme for the marking of fishing gear in accordance with FAO’s Guidelines for the Marking of Abandoned, Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear. Joanna had been involved in the development of these guidelines to reduce marine pollution and to protect the welfare of aquatic wildlife through the prevention of pain, suffering, injury and death resulting from entanglement. This she had done as an environmental advocate working for NGOs, before joining us in FAO to participate in bringing the guidelines to fruition and to help the global community implement them.

Throughout her fifteen-year career with NGOs and FAO Joanna had showed herself to be passionate about and dedicated to her work, as well as practical and solution-oriented. Achieving policy objectives, developing and implementing solutions, as well as building capacity with stakeholders
and local partners, was her great strength. Through this she had built up experience and recognition as a manager of projects and people using her knowledge of sustainability, fisheries, marine mammal entanglement and wildlife trade. With Joanna gone, her great cause has suffered a major loss and she leaves a gap which will be difficult for us to fill.

Where do people like Joanna come from? And what keeps them going? We know that Joanna had a nurturing and supportive family, and that she made friends out of co-workers and co-workers out of friends. It is this capacity to build supportive networks, privately and professionally, that allows people like Joanna to be what they are, and do what they do. It is for this reason that our hearts cry out when we imagine the sorrow of her family and partner.

Where do people like Joanna go after events like this one? We really don’t know any more than we can understand why events like this take place. However, if there is a Hall of Champions anywhere, we are sure to find Joanna there, since in her life she was a true Champion for animals and for the environment.

With my deepest condolences to Joanna’s family and partner.

May Joanna Toole rest in peace.

Árni M. Mathiesen
Assistant Director-General Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


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