Date released
19 October 2022

For more than 30 years, the Pacific Community (SPC) and ACIAR have worked together to support the sustainable management of the Pacific region’s agriculture, fishery, forestry and biosecurity sectors.

It is an indispensable partner in the region, according to Dr Daniel Walker, ACIAR chief scientist. The Pacific island nations and territories that are its members rely on SPC for scientific and technical expertise to supplement their existing resources. And they work together through SPC to develop regional strategies and policies to support their development needs and aspirations.

‘Working in partnerships with SPC, ACIAR supports and extends their work, building strategic relationships with Australia’s Pacific neighbours,’ said Dr Walker.

4 men sitting in boat with fish

ACIAR works primarily with the SPC’s land resources division and its fisheries, aquaculture and marine ecosystem division. ACIAR provides program funding to support SPC’s own priorities, as well as project funding for specific research activities.

Ms Karen Mapusua, director of SPC’s land resources division, said an overarching partnership agreement with ACIAR frames the program funding and the way SPC and ACIAR work together. ‘It gives us the flexibility to respond to needs, to invest in our organisational backbone and systems,’ said Ms Mapusua.

‘The ACIAR partnership allows us to dive a little bit deeper on some of the issues that are of priority to our members. And it gives our researchers the opportunity to connect with researchers in Australia on different things, and this further builds capacity at our end.’

Community-based fisheries management draws on strong traditional knowledge and practices

One current issue ACIAR-funded projects with SPC are focusing on is the preservation of plant genetic resources for crops such as coconut – a widespread and vital crop across the Pacific region.

Through SPC’s scientific and technical services, ACIAR funding contributes to the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, which aims to coordinate efforts to conserve and use coconut genetic resources.

Other ACIAR funding supports a project to protect coconut germplasm (living genetic diversity) collections that are threatened by disease.

On the fisheries front, ACIAR funding supports the SPC’s ‘a new song for coastal fisheries – pathways to change’ initiative. This is a regional strategy developed in response to declines in coastal fisheries resources and ecosystems. Feeding into this strategy are the outcomes of ACIAR-funded projects conducted over more than 15 years to develop community-based fisheries management in the region.

Community-based fisheries management draws on strong traditional knowledge and practices, combining them with scientific approaches to manage fisheries. This approach recognises that government resources to gather national datasets, monitor stock and ensure compliance are limited, so building capacity among the community is vital.

The ultimate aim, at both a local and regional level, is to develop independent programs at scale, to ensure coastal fisheries are sustainable and provide secure livelihoods.