|Cletus Oengpepa - in his element|
(photo: Frederique Olivier)
Cletus, WorldFish research station manager at Gizo in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, has been a valuable partner with ACIAR more than two decades. He has been an inspiration in his efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries and resource management in the Pacific Island region.
"Cletus Oengpepa is a mentor, a leader, a colleague and friend," said Delvene Boso, Country Manager for WorldFish in the Solomon Islands. Her words were echoing how Cletus was described by colleagues in a farewell luncheon held to mark his final week with WorldFish.
A teacher by profession, his interest in science led him to WorldFish where his initial work started in biological research focusing on aquaculture of giant clams. Cletus has been the longest-serving WorldFish staff member in the Solomons. Throughout his 22 years, he has worked through many hardships.
During the ethnic tensions in the late 90s, the research station near Honiara was attacked by militants and eventually destroyed. Cletus was instrumental in leading the evacuation of staff during the crisis. At extreme personal risk he saved much of the equipment as well as the giant clam broodstock.
He was instrumental in re-establishing a research station in Gizo, further away from where the tensions were centred.
"This remarkable man was not simply coordinating the rebuilding of a research station," said Dr Chris Barlow, ACIAR's Fisheries Research Program Manager.
|Worldfish research station, and the jetty that Cletus built|
At his luncheon, Cletus challenged his colleagues by emphasising that the advancement of the Solomon Islands was in their hands. International engagement brings opportunities, but in the end, it is up to Solomon Islanders to direct those opportunities to the development of their own country.
|Cletus and his certificate of appreciation|
Cletus is thankful for the opportunity an ACIAR research scholarship provided him, and took on a personal obligation to pave the way for future researchers.
"When I got that scholarship, I was so determined to succeed. Not just for myself, but for others who may follow me. If I failed, that would be a block; an impediment for others to receive similar scholarships," said Cletus at his retirement function.
Cletus was one of the first Pacific Island scholars to obtain ACIAR funding. This enabled him to undertake a Masters in Aquaculture by Distance Learning through the Deakin University Warnambool Campus, under Prof. Sena De Silva.
Cletus's achievements have not been limited to managing the research facilities. He also co-authored scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and helped design research proposals.
The fisheries development research community is working to achieve environmentally sustainable increases in supply, to meet the growing demand. Fish and fisheries are enormously important as food and a source of livelihood for many millions of people in our neighbouring countries. Without the dedication from individuals like Cletus, the advances that have been made would not be possible.
We thank Cletus for his remarkable achievements, the inspiration he has provided to researchers and other members of his community, and wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.
By Alexandra Bagnara, ACIAR Communications
- ACIAR's Fisheries Program website
- ACIAR's Fisheries Program Project Profiles (.pdf file)
- WorldFish website
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) publication: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012
- Partners article featuring Mr Cletus Oengpepa (see second-last page) (.pdf file)
- Blog post by Dr Chris Barlow, ACIAR Fisheries Research Program Manager, on World Fisheries Day 2012