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BAF and USP partner to strengthen detection of marine invasive species thanks to the PacMAN Project

Date: 19 November 2021

*Republished from the Fiji Times: https://www.fijitimes.com/baf-and-usp-partner-to-strengthen-detection-o…

Fiji’s capability in detecting high-risk marine invasive alien species (MIAS) will be significantly strengthened following an operational arrangement between the University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Applied Science (IAS) and the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF).

The two institutions signed the Pacific Islands Marine Bioinvasions Alert Network (PACMAN) Project Operational Arrangement Agreement on November 10 (2021) at USP’s Marine Science Conference Room.

According to a statement from the university, the PACMAN Project is a collaboration of USP’s – IAS, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) – through its coordination team at the Ocean Biodiversity Information Systems (OBIS).

In the statement, BAF’s acting chief executive officer Surend Pratap said the authority would collaborate with USP-IAS to strengthen this research further by providing the use of its high-class quantitative Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) facility to improve the PACMAN Project’s planned outcomes.

The qPCR machines enable real-time identification of multiple DNA regions or genes to identify an organism in a sample, he says, and that the application is widely used in pathogen and virus diagnostics.

He said the USP – IAS team would use this equipment to identify target MIAS priority species consolidated from literature review and extensive consultations.

“Because the qPCR analysis is such an important part of a scientific technique, it would necessitate the appropriate equipment for this trial study,” Mr Pratap said. “Most importantly, it will significantly increase the ability to detect marine invasive species and to quickly deploy appropriate mitigation measures to address the problems caused by these species.”

USP-IAS acting director Dr Isoa Korovulavula said the signing was in line with USP’s continuous support of BAF’s activities such as the processing of research samples sent and received, including initiatives like the GEF 6 Fiji Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Project.

“Implementing PACMAN (Project) entails not just the project itself, but also capacity building with BAF, particularly when it is required and data analysis sharing,” Dr Korovulavula explained. “I believe our team is championing groundbreaking work, and we will continue to work with BAF and other partners on the implementation of this project and any future projects in biodiversity conservation and protection of marine and terrestrial environments.”

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