A team photo of the bioprospecting team from USP, GIT and SIO with government ministry representatives and staff at Oarsman Bay Lodge in Nacula, Yasawa
A Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for research and marine sample collection in Nacula, Yasawa in the Fijian province of Ba by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) recently proved successful.
Three scientists from the IAS’ Centre for Drug Discovery and Conservation (CDDC) completed the collection along with collaborators and stakeholders, the objective of which was to acquire free prior and informed approval from resource owners to carry out bioprospecting research in their qoliqoli or fishing areas.
They joined representatives from the Ministry of Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport (MLHE); the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests (MoFF); the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs (MTA); including six scientists from collaborators at Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) and Scripps Institute of Oceanography, (SIO) both based in the USA.
A highlight of the FPIC exercise was raising awareness for the communities on potential benefits of conserving their biodiversity and their genetic resources through the use of transcribed presentation material in the I-Taukei language.
Communities visited include Nacula, Naisisili, Malakati on Nacula Island and Yaqeta and Vuaki villages on Yaqeta Island.
Mr Joape Ginigini, IAS Scientific Officer, who led both the FPIC and the collection trip, said the team’s efforts in transcribing the awareness material enabled the communities to have a better understanding of the proposed work and clearly assisted them in making informed decisions on giving access to their resources.
“These efforts mirror a global shift for researchers to abide by acceptable best practices relating to ABS and further emphasised the need for USP to prioritise issues in order to ensure that all research followed best practices under the Nagoya Protocol to safeguard the interests and rights of local and regional communities,” he noted.
As a strategic output of the Fiji Global Environment Facility (GEF)/Access & Benefit Sharing (ABS) project, the IAS conducted a field expedition to collect marine invertebrate, algae and sediment samples following consent from their FPIC activity in the district of Nacula.
Dr. Katy Soapi, CDDC manager commended the support of key government agencies and acknowledged them for their efforts in getting the ABS project underway and facilitating IAS requests for funding and access to the communities.
The Nagoya Protocol and its access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation under the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement.
Fiji has ratified the Nagoya protocol in 2011 but has been using an ad-hoc ABS policy consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity and developed under the IAS’s International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) programme, as a precursor to draw up a legal framework especially for bioprospecting.
Since 2014, IAS started a collaborative GEF project, aimed at the establishment of a legal framework for Fiji’s ABS policy with key government line agencies of MLHE, the MTA and the MoFF.
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