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Call for Pacific cooperation to manage biosecurity risks and ensure a ‘Safe and Green’ Pacific Games

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Nadi, Fiji– Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation (PPPO) and Biosecurity Solomon Islands (BSI), have urged Pacific countries to ensure biosecurity travel precautions for the Pacific Games are being met to prevent pest and disease entry and spread into the region.

The joint statement for strengthened biosecurity was made at the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry (PWAF) held 6 – 10 March in Nadi, Fiji at the side event Managing Agricultural Risks to enhance Pacific Agritrade funded by the European Union.

The 17th Pacific Games will take place in Honiara, Solomon Islands from November 19 – December 02 this year under the theme Safe and Green Games, which was launched by the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare on March 03.

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“Every year, hundreds if not thousands, of pests are intercepted by biosecurity officers at our borders and these are found in a variety of goods. Pests and diseases related to plant or animal products are often found in personal effects and cargo carried by travelling passengers,” said SPC Biosecurity Officer Riten Gosai.

“The risk of serious pests that are not just a threat to horticulture, but also livestock, increases when there is a dramatic influx and increase in passenger and cargo arrivals. This is likewise anticipated in the Solomon Islands before and during the Pacific Games.”

The Solomon Islands is expecting increased visitor arrival, travel and movement as the region converges for the Games. A total of 24 sports will be contested by 24 countries and territories in the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.

Gosai said, “Very recently we have had incursions of the dreadful pest called Fall Armyworm (FAW) as well as the spread of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle – Guam Biotype (CRB-G). There is also a very harmful animal disease, African Swine Fever (ASF), in the region.”

“Unfortunately, FAW and CRB-G are both in the Solomon Islands. It isn’t just about protecting the Islands’ agriculture and trade. When we exit the games and return to our homes, we want to ensure these pests and diseases do not spread to other countries as well.”

Gosai cautioned that small amounts of soil can be carrying bacteria, fungi and viruses that can spread a variety of diseases that affect various crops and animals. Boots, sporting gear and equipment that will be used by the athletes should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected before travel. Games participants that may be taking traditional attire, handicrafts, artifacts and other animal and plant products should declare them at biosecurity. Different pests can inhabit the items or contain laid eggs, such those from exotic ants, the taro beetle and coconut rhinoceros beetle, that can lead to agriculture problems.

The same is true for animal products and even processed items can carry active microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses that can cause animal diseases, for example, Foot and Mouth Disease, which affects cloven-foot animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.

“SPC is carrying out an active awareness campaign on FMD and is working to prevent and stop incursions. Through the EU-funded SAFE Pacific project, SPC has been working with regional Government Ministries and partners such as the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry through the Solomon Islands Biosecurity Development Program and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to strengthen biosecurity measures already in place,” said Gosai.

SPC has planned biosecurity surveillance activities, including monitoring and detection, for priority pests pre and post the games. Animal health and production will be strengthened through organised training on food hygiene and safety. Awareness materials will be made available, and screening and inspection will be increased closer to the games.

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