5 Feb 2011

Cataloguing plant specimens in Pacific region welcomed

1:54 pm on 5 February 2011

A herbarium curator in Fiji supports one million plant specimens from around the Pacific being catalogued and publicly available online, but urges caution that it could open up opportunities for exploitation.

The University of Hawaii's Botany Department has been awarded a science grant to develop a consortium of herbaria collected from around the Pacific region.

Marika Tuiwawa, of the South Pacific Regional Herbarium in Fiji, says information sharing is valid as long as small island states aren't taken advantage of.

"That information, it can be used whereby people can come in and collect species that are already endangered. And they can do whatever they want to do with it. So that's why I say that when we have information we have to be very, very, sensitive about it. And also sometimes the model of genetic materials, based on the information that is given, for it to be exploited for like medicinal uses."

Marika Tuiwawa says unfortunately many small island states lack proper protections to safeguard their natural resources.