The South Pacific is populated by island peoples who have a strong love and respect for the sea. The sea is seen as the bearer of gifts in the many sources of food and other material it provides, but also with the potential to deliver terrible destruction. So it is both loved and respected.
Islands are thought to be fish that have been pulled up from the sea by the Gods, and humans are beings that have evolved from sea creatures.
The art of carving is believed to have been discovered under the ocean when a Māori named Ruatepukepuke searching for his son who had been kidnapped by the God of the Sea (Tangaroa), returned to land with carvings that he had retrieved from the meeting house (Wharenui) of Tangaroa. So in Māori mythology there is a strong spiritual link between the art of carving and the ocean.
Sea creatures, and their forms, feature in a lot of traditional carvings reflecting the importance of the ocean to the peoples of the Pacific.