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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

WESTPAC Scientists Set out Actionable Strategy to Combat HABs in the Region

More than twenty experts from countries in the Western Pacific gathered in Nha Trang, Vietnam, 19-22 December 2016 to foster cooperation and define research priorities for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the region.

The East and Southeast Asian countries in the Western Pacific are populated by more than 3 billion people whose activities have been inextricably linked to ocean, with large impacts on the surrounding coastal waters and marine ecosystems.

Primarily associated with escalating human activities in coastal areas such as coastal aquaculture, nutrient inputs and water quality degradation in coastal systems are expected to increase in many areas in the region.

According to recent reports, HABs occurrence with their social-economic impacts, seems to be increasing in the region. Therefore, it is essential for HAB scientists in the region to provide scientific input, transfer of technology, and bridge the gap between science and management in order to better assist countries in the region in mitigating the negative impacts of HABs.

The workshop, entitled “the development of a strategy for HABs: what we know and what we do not know about HABs”, was an effort initiated by the regional HAB group of scientists in order to review the recent HAB occurrences, analyze knowledge gaps and identify research priorities for concerted actions in the region over the next five years, even beyond.

“As HABs become widely distributed with more frequent occurrences, regional collaborations are needed more than ever to address the problems, as our countries and people have been suffering this escalating problem in this common body of water” all participants emphasized.

Experts’ reviews were also conducted on HAB current knowledge in all aspects (biology, ecophysiology, toxin, fish kill mechanism and socio-economy). It was recognized that, though tremendous studies have been done in the Western Pacific over the past 25 years to address HAB issues via WESTPAC’s collaborations and capacity buildings, there are still so much more to be explored in order to thoroughly understand HABs and effectively mitigate their impacts.

Throughout the four-day workshop, all participants demonstrated their high passion for a closer cooperation among institutions and countries in the region. Lively discussions were made about the regional research strategy with a view to addressing country and/or region specific HABs and synergizing the ongoing HAB research and capacity building efforts at all levels, particularly at institutional, national and regional levels. “National and regional efforts are surely complementary to global efforts, which forms a strong and essential basis to achieve the global objectives of HAB science, for instance the GlobalHAB research program (GlobalHAB)” as all experts highlighted at the meeting.

Shortly after the workshop, immediate actions and enhanced efforts will be on

1. Information sharing via websites and publications so that member states can benefit from existing knowledge, lesson learned from the previous occurrences and fill in the unknown elements.

2. Capacity development to meet the member state needs in addressing HAB issues.

3. Technical assistance to be provided to member states who request contributions from WESTPAC HAB experts on emerging HAB occurrences.