31 July 2023, Suva Fiji - Biofouling, which refers to the accumulation of organisms such as algae, barnacles, and mollusks on the surfaces of structures submerged in water, poses serious economic and environmental risks to Pacific communities.
The risks include reduced vessel efficiency, increased fuel consumption, altered marine ecosystems, and the introduction of invasive species to new habitats. Invasive aquatic species are non-native organisms that can cause significant harm to ecosystems, biodiversity, and human activities. They often enter new regions through ballast water discharge, vessel hulls, or aquaculture activities.
The Pacific region, with its vast coastlines, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of biofouling. Recognising this, on 17 and 18 July 2023, the GloFouling Regional Taskforce convened its second meeting as part of the effort to address the issue. The meeting discussed effective biofouling management strategies, including hull cleaning and coating technologies, regulatory frameworks, and best practices.
The two-day regional taskforce meeting, which brought together representatives from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, was opened by the Acting Deputy Secretary for Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport, Mr George Tavo, who spoke of the region’s shared goal of addressing and minimising the impact of biofouling.
“This is why we are here today, to combat this issue as a Region, with the collective aim of addressing and mitigating the impacts of biofouling in our own backyard before looking worldwide,” Mr Tavo said.
Delegates from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also joined representatives from important organisations at the meeting, including the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji, the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Pacific Community (SPC), and the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre in the Pacific (MTCC-Pacific).
The GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project is a global initiative bringing together key partners to respond to a global environmental problem, namely invasive aquatic species introduced via biofouling. The global challenge of biofouling management and invasive aquatic species has gained significant attention in recent years.
Recognising the need for a collaborative approach to address this issue, the second Pacific Meeting brought together experts, policymakers, and stakeholders from Pacific countries to discuss strategies, share knowledge, and develop coordinated actions to mitigate the adverse effects of biofouling and invasive species in the region.
Each Pacific State provided the Taskforce with an update on the progress of their activities regarding GloFouling and other efforts to manage biofouling and invasive aquatic species.
Participants also shared their experiences and expertise to develop a comprehensive approach that considers both the economic viability and environmental sustainability of biofouling management solutions. Additionally, the distinguished delegates, with the invaluable assistance of the IMO representatives, were successful in developing a preliminary draft of the regional strategy and action plan for managing biofouling and invasive aquatic species.
With the new development, the Regional Taskforce is now well on its way to a promising future of managing biofouling and invasive aquatic species within the region. Fiji, one of the Leading Partnering Countries (LPCs) in the region, together with Tonga, will preside over the first meeting of the Regional Taskforce.
TRAINING COURSE ON BIOFOULING MANAGEMENT PLANS IN FIJI
The GloFouling Regional Taskforce Meeting was immediately followed by a Fiji National Training Course on Biofouling Management Plans and Biofouling Record Books on 19 and 20 July 2023, attended by various participants from both the government and private sectors.
The GloFouling National Training was formally opened by the Manager Legal for the Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL), Ms Vani Filipe, who emphasised: "You, sitting here today, have an important responsibility to the nation, the region, and our future generations to really make this workshop purposeful and effective.”
The GloFouling National Training was an interactive discussion of biofouling issues and how both the public and commercial agencies in the maritime sector might more effectively manage this issue by using biofouling management plans and biofouling record books.
During the meeting, participants emphasised the importance of early detection and rapid response to prevent the establishment and spread of invasive species. They discussed strategies for monitoring and surveillance, risk assessments, and the development of emergency response plans. By exchanging information and expertise, the national task force can be formed and with strengthened capacity effectively manage and control invasive aquatic species.
The participants were taken on a thorough journey by Mr. John Alonso, Project Technical Analyst at the GEF UNDP IMO GloFouling Partnerships, and Dr. Ashley Coutt, Managing Director, and Principal Scientist at Biofouling Solutions Pty Ltd. The participants had a detailed understanding of the stages of biofouling, how an organism become invasive and the need of having biofouling management plans and biofouling record books.
By the end of the two-day training the participants from the government and private agencies had an apparent understanding of how effective the biofouling management plans and biofouling record books are in reducing, managing, and even preventing biofouling with additional advantages of having cleaner hulls and internal seawater systems.
The regional and national workshop were organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), in collaboration with the Project Coordination Unit of the GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships and Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji.