Nabua, Fiji: The Secretariat of the Pacific Community Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) will ensure that GIS and remote sensing are adequately resourced to serve the needs of the Pacific region, stated Dr. Russell Howorth, Director of SOPAC Division of the Secretariat of the South Pacific Community (SPC), during the 2011 Pacific Islands Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing Conference in Nabua, Fiji.
The five-day conference aims to provide a platform for government representatives from Pacific Island countries and territories and other stakeholders in the NGO and private sector to meet with scientists and GIS/remote sensing experts from around the world, and discuss new tools and options for collecting and applying data.
Dr. Howorth said, “The goal of SOPAC is to apply geoscience and technology to realise new opportunities for improving the livelihoods of Pacific communities. GIS and remote sensing is clearly a technology which can contribute to realising improving livelihoods.”
Dr Howorth explained how GIS and remote sensing contribute to building the resilience of Small Island Developing States in the Pacific and assist in managing the risk to their vulnerabilities. For example, it is now possible to count the number of coconut palms per hectare using very high-resolution image data, in the interest of assessing coconut palms as a resource, whether for food security, biofuel, or copra, as has been done in Kiribati and Tuvalu.
A very recent image of shipping vessels in Suva Harbour also demonstrated the potential of radar data, with a resolution of one metre, for the particularly important issue of monitoring tuna fishing vessels in the region.
Increasingly, very high-resolution image data of high accuracy is also used in the delineation of maritime boundaries, for example, in Kiribati and Cook Islands. And in Fiji, the Agriculture Department is also monitoring deforestation by mapping non-forest area with image data at SOPAC.
Dr Howorth assured the participants that SOPAC would work from within SPC to build an even better regional platform that supports, at national level, the opportunities offered by GIS and remote sensing tools.