As stewards of the Pacific Ocean, leaders of the pacific island countries and territories are taking a lead to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’ as outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 14.
At the Pacific Community’s 70th anniversary celebrations held in Noumea in July 2017, representatives from member states endorsed the establishment of the Pacific Community Centre for Ocean Science (PCCOS).
At the announcement of this initiative, SPC Director General Mr Colin Tukuitoga highlighted the close connection between PCCOS and the ‘Blue Pacific’. “The Blue Pacific is a concept that aims to deepen Pacific regionalism by harnessing the ocean as a driver of transformative change in the Pacific’s sociocultural, political and economic development. Through PCCOS, we will strengthen collective action as one ‘Blue Pacific Continent’ by placing the Blue Pacific at the centre of regional policymaking and activities.”
SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division or FAME has been tasked to set up PCCOS, which will serve as an information and data platform for ocean science, management and governance and maritime governance. While not a physical building, PCCOS will nonetheless be a key hub for future ocean research.
Director FAME Mr Moses Amos highlighted that “PCCOS will facilitate excellence in ocean knowledge and innovation, drawing on cutting-edge scientific research, innovative technologies and other collaborative action involving agencies of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific or CROP agencies. The first phase will see the consolidation of all SPC work in the area of maritime boundaries, deep sea minerals, geoscience, geo-hazards, mapping, coastal erosion as well as shipping and of course the big one is fisheries, both oceanic fisheries and coastal fisheries.”
PCCOS will have a unique role in its approach to gathering information, with a focus on both standard scientific data and the wealth of traditional knowledge systems that have proven to be invaluable for understanding the history of ocean health. The information gained through this centre will inform and support decision-making and policy development at all levels, from local councils to international bodies.
A proposal to set up of the regions first fish gene bank, which will be funded through the Innovation Fund from the New Zealand Government, is expected to be one of the early projects for PCCOS.