SPC REEF FISHERIES OBSERVATORY TAKES OFF

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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Nouméa, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE

March 1, 2002

The European Commission and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have agreed to start up a project called PROCFISH in March 2002.

Although largely funded by the European Commission through the Pacific Regional Indicative Program under the Lomé Convention, the project has additional support, in cash or in kind, from SPC itself and a number of collaborators.

PROCFISH, which rather unromantically stands for the "Pacific Regional Oceanic and Coastal Fisheries" project, has two parts. The oceanic component will enable the SPC's Oceanic Fisheries Program to continue to improve Pacific Islands knowledge of tuna fisheries ecosystems over the next three years. The coastal component will produce the first-ever comparative regional baseline assessment of reef fisheries in the islands of the Pacific Community. This will not be confined to the scientific assessment of fish resources, but over the next 5 years will seamlessly develop information on fishing communities and supporting ecosystems as well as the resources themselves.

Although the current project covers only the SPC member countries that are signatory to the Lomé Convention (Fiji; Kiribati; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Tonga; Tuvalu; and Vanuatu) and European Union territories in the Pacific, SPC hopes to obtain funding for additional modules which will enable the reef fishery assessment activities to be extended to the rest of the Pacific, particularly the countries that are newly affiliated with the European Commission under the Cotonou Agreement (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau) as well as USA and New Zealand territories.

The official launch of the coastal component of PROCFISH also signals the coming-of-age of the SPC Reef Fisheries Observatory.

The Observatory draws together the various reef fisheries activities that SPC has been developing over the past 15 years, ever since the UK-funded Inshore Fisheries Research Project first targeted the needs of the region. The Fakahau-Shepard review of 1986 highlighted the scientific information needs of the fisheries managers of the region, and led to an immediate response at both SPC and FFA. While FFA has since gone on to specialize in assisting Pacific Island Forum countries in the international management of tuna fisheries, SPC has continued to develop scientific support to SPC member governments and territories in both reef and tuna fisheries.

Following its initial 1987 project SPC has gradually increased its output in the reef fisheries assessment and management advisory field, through the UK-funded "Integrated Coastal Fisheries Management Project," the "Live Reef Fish Initiative" (variously supported by the ADB, AusAID, The Nature Conservancy and SPC core) and several other activities such as the South Pacific node of the EU/ICLARM FishBase project and the France-funded REACT software project (etc.).

The SPC Reef Fisheries Observatory now integrates and organizes these various Coastal Fisheries Program activities into one standalone entity within the SPC Marine Resources Division, with the overall purpose of providing islands in the Pacific Community region with the scientifically based information necessary to help them plan a sustainable future for their coral reef fisheries.

The observatory, in keeping with SPC's mandate as a Pacific Island intergovernmental technical organization, is primarily a resource for SPC member governments themselves, but also provides information for the benefit of all concerned with the status and governance of Pacific Island reef fisheries. Other users range from village fishers contacted during the course of fieldwork, through Island Councils needing advice on the management of local fisheries under their control, to international donors wanting to know about the sustainability of different Pacific reef fisheries.

It is closely associated with the COREUS project based at IRD (next door to SPC's headquarters in New Caledonia), and the ICLARM (World Fish Centre) South Pacific Office is now hosted at SPC. The team has numerous collaborators, including the International Marinelife Alliance, and The Nature Conservancy, as well as SPC's partner IGOs in the Pacific (particularly SPREP, SOPAC and USP), but is always looking out for more linkages. SPC runs several special interest groups, and the Observatory is the nexus of a network of people and institutions interested in any science associated with coral reef fisheries.

The manager of the observatory program is Pierre Labrosse, who heads a growing multidisciplinary, multi-national team of scientists. The SPC Reef Fisheries Observatory is currently assigned 6 professional staff, and will take on an additional 5 staff over the next couple of months as PROCFISH becomes fully implemented, including two posts specifically reserved for Pacific Island associate officers.

For more information about the SPC Reef Fisheries Observatory contact Pierre Labrosse at Pierrel@spc.int 

For more information about SPC's reef fisheries special interest groups and the information bulletins that go with them, go to http://www.spc.int/coastfish/News/news.htm 

For more information about SPC's fisheries work in general, go to http://www.spc.int/mrd/ 

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