Biofouling management is crucial in order to minimize introductions of invasive aquatic species via ships’ hulls. The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. These species may damage marine biodiversity and ecosystems and cause economic loss to maritime and coastal industries.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is working together with IMO’s GloFouling Partnerships project to tackle this issue. On 17-18 July 2023 representatives from all Pacific Island countries gathered to define and discuss an action plan that would lead to a harmonized implementation of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines. One of the goals of the meeting was to coordinate the numerous actions in the field of marine biosecurity that are taking place in the region. Thus, participants were informed about initiatives related to the issue of invasive species led by SPREP and the Pacific Community, the outcome of the IOC-UNESCO PacMAN project and some insights into New Zealand’s updated biofouling regulations.
The meeting concurred on the need to ensure harmonization of any measures implemented across the region, increase communication among all countries and to share knowledge and resources that are readily available, particularly for monitoring and sampling aspects. Participants also recognized the importance of including all remaining Pacific Island countries and Territories (PICTs) in future meetings.
The attendance included representatives from Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Also present were representatives from IMO, SPREP, SPC and the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre of the Pacific.
As a result of the meeting a first version of the regional strategy and action plan was drafted. The objective is to finalize the draft before the end of 2023 and secure endorsement by the SPREP Member States before the end of 2024. The task force will meet on an annual basis.