Research Identifies Critical Gaps in Ecotoxicological Studies in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories


Rufino presenting at the Asian Development Bank – Development Research for Oceania Pipeline (ADB-DROP). Photo credit: Pacific Islands Development Program

Suva, Fiji – [10 May, 2024]: The Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) are heavily dependent on the marine resources for food security, employment, government revenue and economic development, hence the concern and challenge regarding the protection of these marine resources against pollutants.

A recent publication titled Knowledge gaps in ecotoxicology studies of marine environments in Pacific Island Countries and Territories – A systematic review; by Rufino Varea, a research student funded by the USP Pacific European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) project; to assess the state of ecotoxicology studies in PICTs has revealed several critical gaps. They are a shortage of quantitative studies, uneven geographical coverage, a lack of analysis with changes over time, and a narrow focus on pollutants. Ecotoxicology is the study of effects of toxic chemicals on biological organisms within an ecosystem.

Specifically, the absence of biological effect monitoring (BEM) studies, which is checking how pollution affects living things; poses a considerable concern. Environmental Risk Assessments (ERAs) play a pivotal role in evaluating the impact of pollutants on ecosystems. They rely on both environmental monitoring (EM) which means checking the impacts on the environment directly; and BEM which means how the organisms react to pollutants. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of the latter in PICTs.

Despite the pressing need for comprehensive ERAs in PICTs, the review found a scarcity and need of such studies, particularly those employing BEM approaches.

The scarcity of data on ecotoxicological impacts in PICTs poses a significant obstacle to effective environmental management. However, the review highlights potential solutions by identifying successful biomonitoring strategies from neighboring regions like Australia and New Zealand. These strategies could be adapted and applied to PICTs, aiding in the development of national and regional ERAs.

Furthermore, this study emphasizes the importance of international cooperation and adherence to sustainable development goals, such as those outlined by the United Nations. By utilizing international frameworks, we have the chance to enhance capacity building and promote research on ecotoxicology in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). This will ultimately aid in creating a cleaner and more sustainable blue economy.

USP is one of four key implementing partners of the PEUMP Programme, a EUR 45million program which promotes sustainable management and sound ocean governance for food security and economic growth while addressing climate change resilience and conservation of marine biodiversity.

It follows a comprehensive approach, integrating issues related to ocean fisheries, coastal fisheries, community development, marine conservation and capacity building under one single regional action. The PEUMP programme is housed within the Institute of Marine Resources within the School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS).

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