Indonesia has one of the most extensive coral reef systems in the world on which many of its coastal communities depend upon for its biodiversity and ecological products. However, presently only about 7% of these coral reefs are in excellent condition whilst more than 35% are in poor condition, mainly due to anthropogenic stressors. This expanse of poor coral health in Indonesia is a relatively new phenomenon, and the human populations living adjacent to the deteriorating corals are not yet fully aware of the consequences of this change. Increasing areal extents of dead coral and expanding eel-grass habitats are known to lead to incursions and establishment of exotic populations of toxin-producing benthic algae. Fish that ingest these toxic benthic cells bioaccumlate and concentrate the toxin in their tissues, so that humans consuming fish in the region suffer a debilitating illness referred to as Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP). In some tropical nations, CFP has resulted in people shunning the consumption of all fish from their local waters, negatively affecting the cultural, economic, and human health foundations for their communities.
CFP is endemic in many tropical coastal waters, and there is evidence that the abundance of the ciguatoxin-producing dinoflagellates may be increasing and their range may be expanding to higher latitudes with climate change. Reports of CFP in Indonesia presently are few, but this almost certainly is due to the difficulty in diagnosis in communities that lack proper training and experience. The methods to measure the presence and abundance of these harmful species are not well developed, and details of the toxin transfer to communities are a challenge to understand both as a biological event and as a social event. The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) recognizes the importance of CFP in Indonesian coastal waters and has targeted it as an area for developing capacity. This was the rationale for a PICES project entitled “The Detection and Human Dimension of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Indonesia” (acronym “Ciguatera”) and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of Japan, through the Fisheries Agency of Japan (JFA), from the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Fund. It is anticipated that this project will equip communities with the tools for technology-assisted knowledge generation that will enable them to make decisions to avoid any emerging health risk associated with fisheries and declining corals.
The request to undertake the project was accepted by PICES Governing Council in February 2020.
The project is expected to have strong connections and interactions with, and support relevant activities of, the PICES Scientific Committees on Human Dimensions – HD, Marine Environmental Quality – MEQ (through the Section on Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms in the North Pacific – S-HAB) and Fishery Science – FIS, PICES Technical Committees on Data Exchange – TCODE and on Monitoring – MONITOR, and the PICES FUTURE Science Program (specifically, Research Theme 3 on “How do human activities affect coastal ecosystems and how are societies affected by changes in these ecosystems?”). The HD Committee serves as the parent committee for the project.
To direct the project, a Project Science Team (PST) is established based on principles and procedures detailed in the PICES Policy for approval and management of special projects (Decision 2017/A/7). All PICES member countries and all the above-mentioned Committees are represented on the PST (see the membership below), co-chaired by Drs. Mitsutaku Makino and Mark Wells. The PST Co-Chairmen are responsible for the detailed planning and execution of the project and annual reporting to MAFF/JFA and to PICES Science Board through the HD Committee.
The Project Coordinator, Dr. Alexander Bychkov, is responsible for the management of the fund and annual reporting on its disposition to MAFF/JFA and to PICES Finance and Administration Committee.
Annual reports to MAFF/JFA are to be submitted within 90 days after the close of each project year ending March 31. Within PICES, Science Board takes the responsibility for reporting to Governing Council on the progress and achievements of the project, and the Finance and Administration Committee takes the responsibility for reporting to Governing Council on the financial and management aspects of the project.
Funding for Year 1 (FY 2020, ending March 31, 2021) was set at $96,385 CAD.
The overall goal of the project is to build the capacity of local small-scale fishers and community members to monitor their coastal ecosystems and coastal fisheries to benefit human health in Pacific Rim developing countries (Indonesia). The project is focused on Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) in tropical reef fisheries, which globally has the greatest human health and economic impacts of any algal-based poisoning syndromes.
The key question of the project: How to best foster the use of smartphone-based observation tools, developed during the 2017–2020 PICES/MAFF project on “Building Capacity for Coastal Monitoring by Local Small-scale Fishers” (FishGIS), to empower coastal communities to assess, detect, and minimize their exposure to CFP in community-scale fisheries?
The project major initiatives include: