Dr Posa Skelton
By Edward Tavanavanua, journalism student at USP
4 December 2013, Suva Fiji - The increasing threat of invasive species to the region's marine ecosystems is a great concern because of the lack of capacity to manage the growing risk.This was raised at the 9th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
Findings from the State of Conservation in Oceania assessment revealed that Fiji had the highest rate of invasive species in the Pacific, said SPREP's Network Coordinator Dr. Posa Skelton.
He said the main issue for Fiji was the lack of capacity and knowledge to manage the threat of invasive species at its ports.
"The bad news is that the more we degrade marine areas around local communities with developments, like wharfs and ports, we are giving marine invasive species the opportunity to enter and damage these environments."
He said a SPREP training in 2009 to monitor marine invasive species in the Suva Harbour established that the high level of marine invasive species within the harbour. This was mostly likely caused by ballast water stored in ships or on the hull or attached to the side of ships, said Dr Skeleton. He encouraged seafarers to clean and maintain the conditions of their vessels more carefully.
"If we don't take measures to manage our marine invasive species, they will adapt to our waters and with local species, and negatively affect the livelihood of surrounding communities," he said.
SPREP has established a regional framework throughout its 21-member countries to improve invasive species management in the Pacific, of which six have implemented National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plans.
Edward Tavanavanua is a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from 2 to 6 December in Suva, Fiji. This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference. This activity is funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).