"Observers are the ‘eyes and ears’ of fisheries managers, scientists and compliance officers" Siosifa Fukofuka, Observer Programme Training Coordinator

Noumea

Photo credit: Francisco Blaha

Siosifa FukofukaCan you tell us about yourself and your work at the Pacific Community (SPC)?

My name is Siosifa Fukofuka, I have been working for SPC for the past twenty years. I was first a fisheries observer for five years and today I am a Trainer Coordinator for fisheries observers, who play a critical role in ensuring the sustainable use of the Pacific’s marine resources: being present at the fishing grounds. Observers are the ‘eyes and ears’ of fisheries managers, scientists and compliance officers. I deliver trainings myself under the Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observers and I also work hand in hand with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) based in the Solomon Islands, to organise and coordinate training for observers. I also develop training materials which are used all across the region.

As a Trainer Coordinator, how do you manage to do your work despite COVID-19?

Before the pandemic, I used to travel a lot, to deliver face-to-face trainings. But the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions have changed everything. We had to reinvent the way we deliver trainings and shift from physical to online settings. During online courses, candidates are doing a lot of different exercises, and it works pretty well – trainees actively participate, and show good levels of engagement, which is great. However, delivering trainings online can be challenging at times: observers from smaller countries don’t always have access to a computer and, most of the time, they have limited Internet access, which makes it difficult for them to access the materials provided for the training. We often have to adapt, improvise and find innovative solutions on the spot, but that’s part of the job, isn’t it?

What are the challenges that fisheries observers face with the COVID situation?

One of the main challenges that the sector faces because of the COVID-19 situation is that many observers have had to leave their jobs. Therefore, the next challenge will be to find new candidates for the job or try to convince former observers to come back. Another key issue is that many observers have not been able to go to sea for more than a year, and SPC and FFA have to provide refresher courses before they board fishing vessels again. My role is also to make sure that observers are getting up to date with the protocols and the medication measures for COVID-19, so that the critical work of the observers can start again.

Siosifa Fukufoka, Siosifa Fukofuka, Observer Programme Training Coordinator at SPC

Interview conducted by Lilian Laroche

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Fisheries, Aquaculture & Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division
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