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Tuvalu aims to improve ocean forecasting and maritime safety

Funafunti, Tuvalu- Tuvalu Meteorological Service staff along with stakeholders from across the national maritime industry gathered in Tuvalu this week for a workshop on ocean forecasting and maritime safety. Participants of the workshop highlighted the need for improved interagency coordination and communication and committed to developing and producing a regular Ocean Outlook bulletin to share information with key national stakeholders. The workshop was hosted by the Tuvalu Met Service and the Pacific Community (SPC) through the Australian-funded Climate and Ocean Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac).

As a low lying island, Tuvalu experiences frequent king tides, coastal inundation, erosion, coral bleaching and other ocean-related challenges that threaten local livelihoods. In order to adapt and become more resilient to these events, a comprehensive research and data collection system must be put in place to understand why and how they occur.

“It is important that Tuvaluans are equipped with knowledge about the oceans around us, and that we are aware of how changes in ocean conditions can affect us,” said the Permanent Secretary for Communication & Transport Mr Tapugao Falefou while addressing participants at the opening of the workshop earlier this week. Mr Falefou added that this workshop has come at a critical time, as they prepare for the 23rd UN Conference of the Parties or COP23 to be held in Bonn, Germany in the weeks ahead.

In addition to Tuvalu Meteorological Service staff, national ocean stakeholders from Fisheries, Marine & Ports, the Maritime School, Lands & Survey, Police Service, and national adaptation projects participated in the workshop. Participants received training on ocean information products including tide calendars, real time tide gauge data, wave climate reports and the Pacific Ocean Portal.

The Pacific Ocean Portal provides updated information on sea surface temperature, wave forecasts, surface current forecasts, coral bleaching alerts, and seasonal sea level variations, in addition to hosting near-real time tide gauge data from 14 sites across the region. “The forecast maps we download from the Ocean Portal can complement the marine forecasts and warnings we already provide,” said Tuvalu Met Services Director Tauala Katea. “Long-term sea level and sea surface temperature forecasts in particular can help Tuvaluans prepare for inundation, coral bleaching or fish poisoning events.”

This workshop is the fourth in a series of national and sub-regional Ocean and Tides workshops that have been held in the region since 2015, but it is the first to include an entire day focused on maritime and ports stakeholders. Trainers from the New Zealand-funded Pacific Regional Navigation Initiative (PRNI) led sessions on national requirements to provide Maritime Safety Information under the UN Safety of Life at Sea Convention. The training included updating local nautical charts and ensuring tide tables and charts are fit-for-purpose.

“There’s a growing focus on oceans and the blue economy in sustainable development so it is even more important now that we coordinate our work effectively,“ says SPC’s Ocean Intelligence Coordinator Molly Powers-Tora. “We saw an opportunity to collaborate with PRNI in the delivery of this training, and bringing the Met and maritime sectors together has produced some unexpected benefits.”

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