Following a successful ocean science training and stakeholder engagement workshop last week, Tonga Meteorological Service has committed to developing a monthly Ocean Outlook to provide critical ocean information and forecasts to the public.
“Ocean conditions play a key role in the economy and in the lives of Tongans, from tourism and coastal development to shipping and subsistence fishermen,” said CEO of the Ministry of Meteorology, Information, Disaster Management, Climate Change, Environment, and Communications, Mr. Leveni Aho at the workshop opening on Monday. “Forecasts and early warnings for ocean-based hazards are critical for early action.”
Ocean stakeholders from fisheries, geology, disaster management, ports and marine, communities, environment, tourism, and others highlighted the need for improved access to sea surface temperature forecasts, sea level forecasts, chlorophyll and nutrient data, tide predictions for secondary ports, and seasonal wave forecasts for locations around the island group.
Much of this information is available on the Pacific Ocean Portal, an online tool developed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and now hosted and maintained by the Pacific Community (SPC).
“The portal has been designed in consultation with Pacific users over the last few years,” said SPC’s Coordinator for Ocean Intelligence, Ms. Molly Powers-Tora. “We will continue to develop it based on user feedback and requests, and we hope to develop applications and forecasts to address location-specific ocean monitoring issues around the region.”
Participants in the workshop also showed a lot of enthusiasm in discussing ocean-based traditional knowledge. In a session run by Tonga Meteorological Director, Mr. ‘Ofa Fa’anunu, groups discussed and presented fish and marine animal behaviours, astronomical and weather events, traditional proverbs, and other ocean-related phenomena that serve as traditional indicators to Tongans.
“Tonga Meteorological Service recently kicked off an initiative to collect traditional climate and ocean-based knowledge from the older generations, before this knowledge is lost,” said Fa’anunu. “Where we can, Tonga Met can use some of these indicators to better engage with communities around seasonal forecasts and also to teach young people some of the valuable traditional knowledge of our elders.”
According to Fa’anunu, Tonga Met plans to include a special section on ocean traditional knowledge in their upcoming Ocean Outlook.
This workshop was delivered through the Australian-funded Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) which is managed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with SPC, Geoscience Australia, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
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