Western and Central Pacific banks on SPC specimen collection

Categories FeaturesPosted on

One of the most important tools in understanding the biology and environment of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is a bank.

This particular institution, the Pacific Marine Specimen Bank (PMSB), has been slowly building its revenue of research currency – muscle, organ and bone samples, stomach contents, photographs, and radiographic images – since 2000.

It also collects samples from other large, oceanic species such as marlin and swordfish that are also economically valuable.The PMSB is managed by scientists in the Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC). The datasets held in the bank help the scientists understand the world of tuna. Their knowledge forms part of SPC’s annual assessments of the state of health of tuna populations. In turn, the assessments are used to manage tuna fishing in the region.

Analysis of the specimens held in the bank also helps scientists understand how the climate crisis is influencing changes in the location of tuna and changes in their diet.

Specimen banks are important because they throw light on our understanding of current situations – and because scientists in the future can use the same samples to find answers to new questions or to ask the same questions using new techniques or research tools.

Four of the scientists involved in PMSB explained the difficulties of managing the specimen bank in the latest Fisheries Newsletter published by SPC.

One of the challenges the staff of PMSB face is ensuring that samples, which are collected all over the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, are kept in prime condition until they get to a permanent storage facility. Part of the scientists’ work is to prepare some samples to make it easier to transport them to analysis laboratories outside New Caledonia.

Two tuna lie in a cradle on a fishing vessel at sea. They are being tagged for scientific research by two men. Photo Pacific Community.
Tagging tuna on a pole-and-line vessel during a research voyage in the WCPO. Data collection during tagging is stored in the specimen bank. Photo: SPC.

Much care goes into getting, storing, and transporting samples so they can be used for immediate research and analysis, and also in many years’ time.

This usually means that they have to be kept cold enough. Many samples can be kept at –20°C; however, those used in genetic analysis must be kept at –80°C. Freezers of the second kind are difficult to come by, and expensive to run.

Other tissue must be preserved in formalin and then transferred into ethanol.

The nine cubic metres of freezer space at the laboratory at SPC in Noumea is now too small to contain the growing collection. Although there are plans to enlarge it, research partners are also helping to house pieces of the collection in other parts of the region.

And SPC has funded the purchase of freezers in the main fishing ports in the region to that samples can be stored safely until they are transferred to their final destination.

In April, the PMSB contained nearly 120,000 samples collected from 34,000 specimens. Some national observer programs have participated in collecting samples for the bank since 2002.

Note: post updated 6 July 2020 to correct a spelling error.

Exchange of maritime boundaries data to boost fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance in region: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

SUVA, 16 June 2020 – A milestone has been reached by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Pacific Community (SPC) following the successful completion of an agreement between the two organisations for the exchange of maritime boundaries data.

This milestone also represents the achievement of a key outcome under the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing through enhanced Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) of oceanic and coastal fisheries. 

It comes at an opportune time with the global focus of World Oceans Day on 8 June being “Innovation for a sustainable ocean. Together we can protect our home.”

FFA members had recognised the need to routinely update Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) maps when maritime boundaries were agreed, made publicly available and incorporated into national laws. 

A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.
A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.


Acknowledging that it was crucial that stakeholders were all working from the same data, members authorised SPC to release its dataset to FFA, using the international standard format, to enable updating of the FFA VMS. Through an ongoing Service Level Agreement (SLA) between SPC and FFA, this has now been achieved and authoritative Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) data has been included and operationalised into the FFA VMS, which is used to track fishing fleets across the Pacific region.

When FFA developed the region’s state-of-the-art VMS, the only EEZ boundaries available were provisional lines developed from different sources under the Maritime Boundaries Project which was later transferred to SPC. As Pacific Island states and territories made progress in delimiting, negotiating, and declaring their maritime boundaries, more updated datasets were made available via open source platforms and this was used to update the VMS.

While expressing his congratulations, the Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam said, “The European Union is proud to have partnered with SPC and FFA in the operationalisation of such an awaited data sharing agreement. 

“It reaffirms EU’s global commitment to promote the sustainable management of marine resources and the achievement of the SDG14 – Life below water. It recognises the importance of marine issues for the Small Island States of the Pacific, which are big Ocean States, in line with the ‘Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent’ endorsed by the Pacific Island Forum Leaders at their meeting in Tuvalu in 2019. It adds value for the toolbox to fight IUU fishing and ensure a high level of maritime security in the region.”

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA is happy with the continuous collaborative work with SPC, especially with regards to the Service Level Agreement on maritime boundaries.

“We are very pleased with the continued strong collaboration between FFA and SPC to support our Members in the sustainable utilisation of our valuable offshore fisheries resources. Specifically, the work on the delimitation of maritime boundaries is fundamental as has been underlined by our Pacific Island Forum Leaders.”

Dr Tupou-Roosen also spoke highly of the PEUMP programme for supporting the milestone achievement, saying, “We are very appreciative of the collaborative approach that PEUMP is taking in implementation as a multi-partner programme which has resulted in these types of successful outcomes.”

SPC’s Director-General, Dr Stuart Minchin, said, “National fisheries officers can now respond to cases of illegal fishing within their maritime zones with confidence, knowing that the boundaries displayed are internationally recognised. Fisheries are a critical source of wealth for the peoples of the Pacific and strengthened monitoring and management of fisheries has exponential impacts on the sustainable development of our region.”

Pacific representatives participating in the region’s first virtual MCS Working Group Meeting in May congratulated the FFA and the SPC on reaching a critical milestone for fisheries management in the region. 

Following several years of collaborative work, the two regional organisations completed Phase 1 of the SLA in April 2020, and the updated EEZ information has been on display since May. 

ENDS //

Background

All of the boundary data shared through this agreement has been collected, analysed, and catalogued through the Pacific Regional Maritime Boundaries project. The project was originally established to assist Pacific countries to obtain greater certainty in the limits of their EEZs to support fisheries management and enforcement, and it has supported the successful declaration of 19 shared boundaries between countries since 2001.

The project is coordinated by SPC and is supported by a consortium of partners, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner; FFA; the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Geoscience Australia; Attorney-General’s Department, Australia; University of Sydney; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT); GRID-Arendal; Commonwealth Secretariat; as well as the European Union and Sweden through the PEUMP programme.

For more information, contact:
Debbie Singh, PEUMP Communications Officer, SPC, email debbies@spc.int
Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About the Pacific Community (SPC)

The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Learn more at www.spc.int.

About the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Follow us on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, and www.ffa.int.

About the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme 

The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the pacific countries. Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; the threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues to ensure inclusiveness and positive changes for the Pacific island people. This five-year PEUMP programme is funded by the European Union (EUR 35 million) and the government of Sweden (EUR 10 million). It is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in close collaboration with Non-Government Organisations and the national authorities.

Republic of the Marshall Islands and SPC sign 2019-2022 Country Programme

Categories NewsPosted on

MEDIA RELEASE – republished from the Pacific Community, 11 April 2019

The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Pacific Community have signed an agreement formalizing the Islands nations Country Programme for 2019-2022. The Programme provides a framework for work over the next 4 years and ensures that priorities identified by RMI as essential to achieving its development objectives and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The agreement was signed by the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, HE Hilda Heine, and SPC’s Director-General, Dr. Colin Tukuitonga.   

For the 2019-2022 Program, 7 priority areas have been identified; Statistics, BioSecurity, Food Security, Agriculture, Non-Communicable diseases, Gender, and Civil Registration/Vital Statistics.  In addition, the Island Nation will continue to emphasise the ongoing projects in such areas as fisheries, education, disaster risk reduction, and climate change.

President Heine emphasised the importance of the agreement to the Marshall Islands, and the unique advantages that come from its membership in the Pacific Community, saying “This Country Programme lays out a clear path over the next 4 years on areas we want to do a deeper dive in, while continuing on-going projects with SPC.  With the expert technical and scientific support from the Pacific Community, I am confident that we can reach our targets”.     

The Country Program for RMI was one of the first developed for a Pacific Community member with the original Joint Country Strategy introduced in 2008. Since that time, RMI and SPC have worked closely on a variety of key development projects, which have brought positive change to the Marshallese.

Director-General Tukuitonga praised the ambitious targets of the Country Programme and highlighted the Programme as an example of how the Pacific is taking a leading role in taking action on sustainable development priorities. “This Country Programme is not just a statement of principles, it provides specific, measurable and achievable actions that will have a dramatic impact on the future of RMI. SPC is proud to be a partner in this effort and we look forward to working closely with President Heine and her team.”

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983. In 2017, SPC and RMI worked together on 10 country specific and 31 regional development activities.

Media Contact:
SPC- Lara Studzinski | Email: laras@spc.int 

About Us:
The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Learn more at:  www.spc.int