The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) hosted from 3 to 7 June a series of back-to-back workshops focused on the main aspects of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, the Anti-Fouling Systems (AFS) Convention and the IMO Biofouling Guidelines. The underlying theme of the week was to encourage implementation of the two mandatory instruments and the voluntary Guidelines as a means to prevent the transfer of invasive aquatic species into the Pacific region, one of the major threats to the oceans’ biodiversity.
The week-long event revealed itself to be quite timely, since it coincided with the confirmation that a new invasive species had been detected in Fijian waters. Captain Phillip Hill, CEO of MSAF, confirmed that “it was an inch-long prawn that drills itself into wood or fiberglass hulls”, potentially compromising the structural stability of ships.
The regional workshop brought together representatives from Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, the Federate States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment (SPREP) took care of the main logistical aspects, in collaboration with the Project Coordination Unit of the GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships. The workshop included consultants and support from Maritime New Zealand, NIWA and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
The regional workshop culminated with the celebrations of World Ocean’s Day and all participants stressed the major role played by the oceans in the everyday life of coastal communities and how the impacts of invasive aquatic species could potentially threat the ecological integrity of the Small Island Developing States in the Pacific.
In his opening speech Mr. Lui Naisara, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, highlighted that fisheries and tourism are vital sectors of the economy of Fiji and ocean-reliant activities are intrinsically linked to the health, wealth, history, culture and identity of Fijians and the people of other islands in the Pacific.
The workshop included a discussion of the main aspects of the GloFouling Partnerships at the regional level. In this regard, the representatives from the 14 Pacific region countries agreed to relaunch the existing regional task force to include the threat posed by invasive aquatic species in the high-level regional agenda. The meeting also confirmed the importance of coordinating efforts from the GloFouling Partnerships with similar initiatives at the regional level such as the GEF-6 regional project on invasive species.