04.05.14 Volume 29 of the Official Micronesia Challenge Newsletter

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04.02.14 KOSRAE Landmark land deal in Micronesia paves way for conservation

A unique land protection deal will safeguard 78 acres of forested wetland in the Yela Valley on Kosrae, Micronesia. This is what is hoped to be the first deal of what may be a few aimed to preserve the 1,400-acre valley encompassing the largest stand of Terminalia carolinensis (“ka”) trees in the world, several other endemic plant species and the endangered Micronesian pigeon.

While conservation easements are relatively common in the United States, this is the first conservation easement outside of the Americas. By bringing a new model of conservation to the Federated States of Micronesia, a local family on Kosrae teamed up with government and conservation groups to protect this biologically rich part of the world.

This revolutionary land deal is also preserving their culture and traditions — the forest provides locals with freshwater, fish from the rivers and traditional medicine. The trunk and immense buttresses of the ka tree were traditionally used to make canoes, and the nuts are an edible treat for children.

The land will be protected by a conservation easement purchased with a grant provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and held by the Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA). Conservation easements, whereby the landowner retains title to the land but agrees not to exercise development and other rights, are being looked at as an extremely promising conservation tool in Micronesia because they are an especially good fit in traditional island cultures where usage rights traditionally overlap and forests remain in the family passed down through the generations. This model permits the important conservation area to stay in that ownership while allowing sustainable traditional harvest and use of the natural lands but prohibiting future development and resource exploitation.

From U.S. Embassy, Kolonia's Facebook.  

Photo by US Embassy, Kolonia, Pohnpei

03.19.2014 GUAM Humåtak Watershed Adventure

Humåtak Watershed Adventure Connects Community to Their Natural Resources

Humåtak Watershed Project, March 16-17, 2014
Over the weekend, more than 60 students from Simon Sanchez High School and the University of Guam embarked on a Humåtak Watershed Adventure.  Participants learned about natural resources, environmental threats and community resilience.  The adventure started in the upper watershed showcasing sources of erosion and concluded in Fouha Bay, allowing participants to observe the many connections of Guam’s watershed ecosystems.

“Accelerated erosion is the main environmental threat in most of our southern villages, wiping out native forests and smothering coral reefs to death. Arson fires, many caused by deer poachers, and invasive wild pigs are the main causes of erosion,” Humåtak Project Coordinator Austin Shelton explained to participants.

The purpose of Humåtak Watershed Adventures is to connect the community to their natural resources, which are foundations of island culture. Humåtak Watershed Adventures are part of the environmental education outreach efforts of the Humåtak Project, a community initiative dedicated to reviving Guam’s watersheds, coral reefs and fisheries. Since Humåtak Project restoration initiatives began in 2011, volunteers have contributed over 1,600 service hours planting trees and installing sediment filters in an effort to revive native forests and coral reefs.

Busing for the adventure was provided by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. Umatac Mayor Johnny A. Quinata provided road safety support.  Guest speakers came from the University of Guam (UOG) and the Guam Coastal Management Program.  The Kewalo Marine Laboratory of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research and the Western Pacific Coral Reef Institute at UOG are among the funding partners of the Humåtak Project.

Posted by
Austin Shelton
3:10 pm
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Humåtak, Guam

03.13.14 KOSRAE 1st Quarter Newsletter by KSCO Released

Read Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization's 1st Quarter Newsletter here.

03.07.14 AIC Meets in Washington, DC

U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee Meets in Washington, DC, February 17-18, 2014 by Carey Morishige

The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee members back row, from left to right Michael Hamnett, Gerry Davis, Jean-Pierre Oriol, Bob Richmond, Joanna Walczak, Emma Anders, Joseph Cameron; front row, from left to right, Damaris Delgado, Carey Morishige, Fran Castro, Ruth Matagi-Tofiga. Photo by Trina Leberer.

    The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) met in Washington, DC, from 17-18 February prior to the 31st Meeting of the US Coral Reef Task Force.  The AIC represents the combined voice of the coral reef jurisdictions of the U.S. and Affiliates and serves as the collected voice for local governments in the federal process to conserve coral reefs. AIC member jurisdictions include American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaiʻi, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. AIC affiliate members include Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.
    The AIC provides leadership and coordination of strategic initiatives to strengthen the conservation of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and is guided by its Charter and Strategic Action Plan as well as the core principles of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force’s National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reef and National Action Strategy.
    Currently, the priority issues of focus for the AIC include: 1) proposed Endangered Species Act-listing of 66 coral species, 2) reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, and 3) restoration of the Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program.
    The AIC recently re-vamped its vision and mission statements to better capture what the Committee does and why.

Thriving coral reef ecosystems, effectively managed to protect their cultural, environmental, and economic value for future generations.

To be a unified voice for the effective management of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and Freely Associated States.

The AIC is also in the process of updating its Strategic Plan for the next five years (2015-2019). Members crafted new strategic goals for this plan during their recent meeting in Washington, DC. New goals will be posted on the AIC website soon.  For more information on the AIC, visit their website at: http://allislandscommittee.org/.

02.05.14 PALAU Fishermen Meet to Discuss Stock Assessments.

Fishermen Meet to Discuss Stock Assessment Results
      From February 1, 2014 meeting at Happy Fish Market, Palau.  Photo S. Victor.
   The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resource Environment and Tourism (MNRET) and the Senate Committee on Tourism organized a meeting with the fishermen and members of the Belau Boaters Association at Happy Fish Market on February 1,2014. The purpose of the meeting was to present the results of the bumphead parrotfish (kemedukl) and humphead wrasse (maml) stock assessment, and the study to determine size at maturity for fish, and to hold an initial discussion on re-establishing fishermen associations in Palau.

  Dr. Yimnang Golbuu at Happy Fish Market, Palau. Photo S. Victor.

   Dr. Yimnang Golbuu presented results from the stock assessment and “Willingness to Pay” survey for kemedukl and maml in Palau. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy and implemented by Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) in collaboration with MNRET and Dr. Alan Friedlander from the University of Hawaii. Results of the study show that there are an estimated 61,000 kemedukl and 37,000 maml found within Palau’s main reefs. The populations are still recovering from the previous overexploitation.
    The study recommends that if harvest is allowed, an annual catch quota of 487 individuals for kemedukl and 129 individuals for maml be implemented to allow for sustainable harvest and continued recovery of both species. These annual catch quotas would bring the fishery value of both fish to about $26,000 annually. The result of the willingness to pay shows that maml ranked no. 5 and kemedukl no. 6 as preferred animals that tourists come to Palau to see.
    The results of the willingness to pay study further showed that a tourist was willing to pay $11.80 more compared to the current price of diving if both fish were managed well and they were even willing to pay $38 more if both fish continued to be closed. These scenarios present a tourism value for both fish of between $1.1-$3.8 based on an estimated average annual arrival of 100,000 tourists to Palau.
    In a separate presentation, Steven Victor of The Nature Conservancy presented the results of studies being conducted to determine the size maturity for fish, or size at which a fish is old enough to reproduce. The study is being conducted with fishermen from Ngarchelong and Kayangel. Results of the study show that 60% of fish being captured have not had a chance to reproduce or contribute to the population before being caught. The study validates what fishermen today have been seeing in their catch composition – that they are catching smaller fish. A fish needs to grow to a certain size before they can reproduce, and this size is different for different kinds of fish. A fish needs to reproduce for at least 20% of its lifetime reproductive capacity to maintain a stable population and more than 20% for the population to grow. Therefore, establishing a minimum size limit that allows for a fish to at least reproduce 20% is necessary for sustainable harvest.

             MNRET Minister Umiich Sengebau at Happy Fish Market, Palau.

                                            Photo S. Victor.

  Minister Umiich Sengebau of MNRET then discussed the need for the science to support policy. He further stated that management policy needs to be at a regulatory level rather than at the legislative level. This allows for the Ministry to act quickly in revising a regulation that is responsive to the available scientific information and with input from the fishermen.

01.05.2014 FROM THE NEWSLETTER. MC Steering Committee Meets in Saipan December 3-6, 2013

Micronesia Challenge Steering Committee Meets during 19th MCES
    On the margins of the 19th Micronesia Chief Executives Summit held in Saipan (December 3-6, 2013), the Micronesia Challenge Steering Committee (MCSC) convened their regular meeting to select new officers.
     During the meeting, Mr. Bruce Kijiner, Director of the Office of Environment Planning and Policy Coordination (OEPPC) for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)was elected as Chairman, T.H. Umiich Sengebau, Minster of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism for the Republic of Palau (ROP) was elected Vice Chairman and Ms. Fran Castro, Program Manager for Watersheds and Coral Reefs of the Division of Environment Quality (DEQ) for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) was elected as Secretary. The other members of the MC Steering Committee include focal points Ms. Evangeline Lujan, Guam Waterworks Authority, and Ms. Alissa Takesy, Deputy Secretary, Department of Resource and Development, FSM National Government, and non-voting members representing partner organizations: Mr. Willy Kostka, Executive Director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust and Ms. Trina Leberer, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Micronesia Program.

MC Steering Committee members at 19th MCES in Saipan (L-R: Willy Kostka, Fran Castro, Jennifer de Brum, 

Yim Golbuu, Alissa Takesy, seated Vangie Lujan and Ricky Carl). Picture supplied by Fran Castro.
    During the summit, the MC Steering Committee also provided their annual progress report to the Chief Executives, including completion of the Micronesia Challenge Business Plan, with a goal to raise an additional $42 million for the MC endowment, which currently stands at $14 million. In their communique, the Chief Executives pledged to:
    • Endorse and support the Micronesia Challenge Business Plan and all associated efforts to achieve fundraising goals and the Plans overall implementation;
    • Support the Micronesia Challenge proposal that greater coordination and communications be initiated between the MC and the Regional Invasive Species Council (RISC) to develop invasive species targets and measures at the jurisdictional and regional levels, where appropriate, and to identify funding opportunities for regional and jurisdictional biosecurity and invasive species coordination; and
    • Support the holding of a side event at the next Pacific Island Forum, to be held in Palau to actively pursue funding resources to implement the MC Business Plan.
    Next steps for the MC Steering Committee and partners include:
    • Hiring an Australian Volunteer to support the MC Regional Office by March 2014;
    • Work with GLISPA, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy to initiate the second phase of fund raising for the MC at the next Conference of the Parties to the Rio Conventions (UNCDB, UNFCCC, UNCCD);
    • Launch the MC Business Plan at the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) meeting in Apia, Samoa in August 2014;
    • Profile the MC at the UNCBD COP in South Korea in October 2014;
    • Work with RISC to develop invasive species targets and measures at the jurisdictional and regional levels, where appropriate, and to identify funding opportunities for
regional and jurisdictional biosecurity and invasive species coordination.
    For more information on the outcomes from the 19th
Micronesia Chief Executive Summit (MCES) held in Saipan December, please go to http://gov.mp/19thmces/