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A village in Samoa welcomes pioneering exchange on traditional knowledge and coral reef monitoring

Pacific ReefCloud Monitoring Project Knowledge Exchange Workshop participants
Source: SPREP press release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A significant milestone drawing on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to monitor and conserve coral reefs and coastal ecosystems is taking place in a Samoa village on the south coast of Upolu.

Satitoa villagers rolled out a red-carpet welcome for communities engaged in coral reef monitoring when Papua New Guinea, the Sea Women of Melanesia, Australian Traditional Owner groups (Gidarjil Development Corporation), as well as community representatives from the Aleipata district, gathered for the Pacific ReefCloud Monitoring Project Knowledge Exchange Workshop at the Satitoa Catholic Church hall earlier this week.

The five-day meeting is the first knowledge exchange workshop as part of the ReefCloud initiative under the Coral Reef Innovation Project, developed through a collaborative partnership funded by the Australian Government and is being implemented jointly by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Government of Samoa through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).

In a press release issued by SPREP Samoa’s Associate Minister of MNRE, Faleomavaega Titimaea Tafua, who opened the workshop, lamented the alarming rate with which the marine ecosystem is deteriorating. Glancing across to the ocean, he said his village feels the negative impact every day especially since most of them rely on the ocean for survival.

“We cannot allow this to continue without concrete remedial actions. It is critical to move beyond the existing approaches to develop innovative management portfolios and build an international network for interdisciplinary research spanning local, regional, national and global levels,” Tafua said.

“A critical element of this work is the inclusive participation from the local communities in supportive, innovative, and timely decision making to preserve coral reefs.”

Speaking as the Member of Parliament for Satitoa and Aleipata Itupa i Lalo, Tafua said he welcomed the opportunity for elders, women and young people from his constituency to share their knowledge, experiences and learning from Australia and Papua New Guinea on best approaches to support informed co-management of natural resources.

“A greater community engagement in coral reef monitoring, which informs protection and management, provides a foundation for the future economic development and welfare,” Hon. Tafua said. “Local governance and practice play a vital role in asserting indigenous management of their marine estates and can contribute to broader marine governance structures.

 “Lessons from the Pacific and Australian Traditional Knowledge Systems might teach us about the future adaptation and resilience on small islands and remote locations, with broader implications globally.

“Developing skills in modern monitoring and research methods among Traditional Owners will enhance future economic opportunity for wider employment and service delivery in regions where high unemployment significant socioeconomic disadvantages are common. The robust documentation of the condition of marine ecosystems will empower local indigenous communities with a substantial role in their marine resources via marine monitoring, research, and management.”

The work in Samoa will pilot the development of a coral reef monitoring framework that facilitates the use of technology to support monitoring efforts worldwide.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa, Emily Luck, said the Australian Government is expanding its support for coral reef resilience in the face of climate change and other pressures in the Pacific through the implementation of ReefCloud.

“This new phase of ReefCloud will empower communities and local governments in Pacific countries to monitor and inform the improved management of their coral reefs.  I am pleased that Samoa has been chosen to help develop a framework that incorporates traditional ecological knowledge along with the latest in coral science,” said Commissioner Luck.

“This new phase of the project will build on the lessons learnt in Samoa to support broader conservation actions across the region.  This is an exciting opportunity for communities in Samoa and across the Pacific to share knowledge and work together to protect their coral reefs.”


ReefCloud is an online tool that combines artificial intelligence and advanced data science to support faster and more efficient coral reef monitoring to inform decision-making.  ReefCloud was developed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) working with scientists from Pacific countries. It uses underwater photographs analyzed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in combination with traditional knowledge. The initiative is also in line with the Pacific Coral Reef Action Plan 2021-2030, developed and endorsed by 26 Member countries at the 30th SPREP Meeting in 2021.

The workshop at Aleipata is one of three Knowledge Exchange Workshops with Samoan, Papua New Guinean and northern Australian communities to enable consultation and discussion that will identify best practices for building traditional management plans and knowledge in the sampling design and monitoring reporting tools that inform local management plans.

Documenting traditional knowledge and monitoring the status of the reefs provides the evidence base to design management interventions to restore and conserve our reefs. It will also provide a voice for the Pacific in international fora to attract the support needed to deal with the impacts of climate change and human pressures.

For further information please contact: Dr Peter Davies, Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Adviser, and Dr. Nicolas Rocle, Marine Environment and Conservation Specialist, at or Ph: +685 21929