Around thirty professionals will meet later in the week in Murree to discuss the evolution of biosecurity risks and new tools to respond to them. Two conferences on “Invasive Species That Travel by Ships” and “Citizen Science” to Identify Them are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Better to arm ourselves against invasive species, especially those traveling by boat to our islands. This is the topic of this workshop, which will take place on Thursday and Friday between Tahiti and Moura. Polynesian and New Zealand professionals around the table, along with specialist researchers. The aim, of course, is to talk about the challenges, both in Fenua and Aotearoa, of the critical issue of biosecurity, offering locally developed solutions. Managing species already introduced in harbors or harbours, anticipating their arrival by working on the tourism industry, the fishing sector and of course international maritime transport… “There are many experiences to be shared in both directions, with other arrivals expected from other tropical regions”, explains James Nikitin, founder and CEO of Blue Cradle, which together with IRCP and Criobe organizes this workshop, sponsored by the Pacific Foundation. This Franco-British resident of Christchurch recalls that in regions that “depend on a healthy ocean” for their development, invasive species can “destabilize ecosystems” and affect “the economy and the whole society” beyond the environment.
Workshop participants also include the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, which is developing a regional biosecurity research program. Or the New Zealand Science Institute, Cawthron, which, among other programs, is working on using new technologies to identify invasive species. We are talking specifically about finding traces of DNA in water to identify species that could have been introduced by, for example, ballast water from merchant ships. And this genetic tracing, which allows rapid detection, “everyone can participate,” recalls James Nikitin, who notes that Cawtron works with schools, colleges or high schools on these tools, which are little used in Polynesia. A dedicated workshop at the workshop will explore the idea of a “citizen science” program to engage yachtsmen and other marine users, as well as an information exchange platform to estimate the presence of potentially threatened species. The challenge is also to raise awareness: a “general public documentary” should be created on the subject of marine biosecurity.
In addition to this professional workshop, two conferences are planned for the general public. The premiere will be held tonight at 17:30 in Kriob, Mura. Eva García-Vázquez, from the University of Oviedo, will talk about biosecurity issues and types of boat travel. The second will be on Wednesday at 17:30 at CCISM in Papeete, with molecular biology and marine ecology specialist Xavier Pochon, who will talk about “Using environmental DNA to move from routine monitoring to citizen science”.