In June 2016, the Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l¹Environnement (CRIOBE), the Pacific Community, and the University of the South Pacific, with financial support from Fond Pacifique, hosted a scientific workshop on South Pacific freshwater eels (Anguilla spp.) in Suva, Fiji Islands. Participants included a cross-section of representatives from national fisheries administrations, private sector investors, scientists from regional and international research and tertiary education institutions, non-governmental organisations working in biodiversity conservation, and fish farmers.
The purpose of the workshop was to update stakeholders on the current state of knowledge about South Pacific freshwater eels, and to determine the priorities in scientific research needed to underpin and support conservation and sustainable utilisation of tropical freshwater eels in Pacific Island countries and territories. The workshop highlighted an increasing demand on freshwater eel resources and a corresponding need for better data to effectively conserve and manage these important ecological and cultural animal resources.
KEY OUTCOMES / During the 3-Day workshop, participants worked together to set clear research priorities to fill knowledge gaps concerning South Pacific freshwater eels. The following is a list of the top priorities:
1. Adoption by fisheries administrations of routine periodic sampling to show trends through time in eel recruitment and adult population abundance;
2. Selection by tertiary institution staff and post-graduate students of detailed eel biology topics such as eel genetics or the age and season for eel breeding migrations;
3. Market research to establish the true demand and likely value in Asian markets of the particular eel species present in the South Pacific;
4. Documentation of cultural and subsistence values associated with eels; and
5. Formulation of science-based policies and management plans to conserve and sustainably utilize freshwater eels.
Since the workshop, participants have started to implement the data collection process. In addition, the collaborations which formed at the workshop have persisted, and members have forged new collaborations designed to address the priorities highlighted in the workshop report.
WORKSHOP REPORT :
Pickering, T.D. and P. Sasal. 2017. Workshop on South Pacific Freshwater Eels: Current knowledge and future research. Suva, Fiji. 13 - 15 June 2016. Pacific Community. Noumea, New Caledonia. 36pp
Illustration: Depiction of a scene from the famous Polynesian legend, ‘Hina and the Tuna’, about the origin of coconuts. Boris Colas, SPC.
Pierre Sasal (Moorea, Polynésie française)