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DG's Opening Statement to the Island Biosecurity Training 24-27th September 2013

Good morning, Talofa

Welcome to the Island Biosecurity Training - it is great to have you here and to see positive action on one of the biggest threats facing our Pacific region.

It is pleasing to see the increasing recognition of invasive species as a major issue.

Globally, the cost of damages from invasive species is 1.4 trillion US dollars annually, almost 5% of global GDP.

There is no need to tell the people of Guam about the importance of invasive species.

On Guam, the invasive Brown Tree snake, bought in after the Second World War, probably as a stowaway in ship cargo, has now wiped out all native bird species and costs over 7 million US dollars each year to control.

There is also no need to tell farmers of Samoa. Just over 20 years ago, Samoa was hit by the taro leaf blight, caused by an invasive water-mould, wiping out all the unique taro varieties found only in Samoa.

This caused significant economic hardship, as well as a loss of a staple food item of most Samoans.

Invasive species have significant impacts across the board in our region, economically, socially and on the environment.

The Pacific has the doubtful honour of some of the highest rates of loss of biodiversity in the world, particularly regarding extinction of bird species.

Of particular relevance to this training is the fact that approximately 80% of extinctions on our islands have been caused by invasive species.

The time to act on invasive species is NOW.

The Pacific Islands Forum held 3 weeks ago in the Marshall Islands highlighted the importance of invasive species and called on SPREP and SPC to strengthen programmes in this area.

Last weeks SPREP Meeting also highlighted the importance of invasive species.

Three significant events from last week's meetings are relevant to this biosecurity training:

First, SPREP Members endorsed the development of a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on Invasive Species;

Second, SPREP Members supported the Pacific Invasive Species Capacity Development Strategy; and

Third, SPREP and Island Conservation celebrated their Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate over the next few years. This agreement includes funding from Island Conservation to support the Pacific Island Learning Network (PILN) for the rest of the year.

Your training this week is thus timely, coming so soon after the SPREP and Forum Meetings, and it is also very important.

Biosecurity is the front line for invasive species control.

It is one of the key instruments that countries have to protect their islands from the harmful impacts of invasive species.

The Brown Tree Snake in Guam is a real case study for our region, due to the impact of this species on native biodiversity and on Guam's economic bottom line.

However, a less known but very important element of this case study is the success in controlling the spread of the snake beyond Guam.

And the secret of this success is effective biosecurity, implemented in Guam and in other Micronesian countries.

I pay tribute to these efforts which other Pacific countries need to study and learn from.

In my previous job before SPREP I had some involvement in the Galapagos Islands where invasive species is the BIG issue affecting the World Heritage values of these islands.

It is interesting to note the key element of their strategy to address this threat is through a major investment in biosecurity.

Effective biosecurity policies and procedures are essential if we are to address invasive species in our region.

And these policies need to be backed up with the necessary resources to do the job.

I wish I could say this was the case at the moment but most Pacific countries currently fall short in this area. This needs to be addressed.

SPREP's work on invasives includes having a number of its staff dedicated to building capacity and providing technical advice to Pacific Islands.

Most you will meet this week, including Anthony Talouli – our marine invasive species expert - who will be giving a presentation later this afternoon.

SPREP is executing a 7million US dollar project from the GEF to manage invasive species in 10 Pacific Island Countries. I note some of you are invasive species coordinators for this project in your country.

A wise man from our region once said, "if you want to go fast you go alone, if you want to go far you go together"

The challenge of invasive species is so great that we must go together.

We are fortunate in the Pacific to have two important regional networks supporting invasive species efforts on the ground.

The Pacific Invasives Partnership (PIP) – which David Moverley coordinates - comprises technical agencies and experts that provide guidance to Pacific countries and territories.

The Pacific Invasives Learning Network (PILN) - which Posa Skelton coordinates - is the regional network for practitioners, people like yourself, who are the front-line in fighting invasive species.

I assume you are all members ?

If not I will ask David and Posa to fix that this week.

The Pacific Invasives Initiative (PII) is a valued partner of SPREP on Invasive Species Management. I acknowledge and thank Souad Boudjelas (PII Director) and Bill Nagle (PII Officer) for their excellent support for the region and their cooperation in addressing this critical issue.

Other members of the Pacific Invasives Partnership include the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries and I would like to thank Karyn Froud from the Ministry and Monica Gruber from Victoria University for their support.

Effective biosecurity is critical for our region.

I emphasise again, you are the front line for the control and management of invasive species. Thank you for your efforts.

We believe this weeks biosecurity training is an important step in the right direction and we hope this will be followed up by other training and programmes in this area.

While you are here, please also take the time to explore the SPREP Compound and meet with the dynamic SPREP staff.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome again and I wish you all the best for a productive and enjoyable training.

Thank you, Fa'afetai lava

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