02.05.2015. POHNPEI. FSM Passes Landmark Shark Legislation

During the final hours in the afternoon of February 4, 2015, the 18th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia passed a law which amends Title 24 of the FSM Code to include the prohibition of possessing, handling and selling of shark and shark fin in all of FSM’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  With this new shark law, FSM now joins the Republic of Palau (ROP), the republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), US territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Island (CMI) in the effort to protect the declining population of sharks in Micronesian waters.

Photo: Trina Leberer
FSM’s 200-mile EEZ covers a sea area of more than 3 million square kilometers (1.3 million square miles) representing the largest single EEZ among the three eastern Micronesia countries. Combined with the EEZs of the ROP, RMI, Guam and CNMI, whose territorial boundaries intersect, with this new law, protection of sharks in Micronesia represents the largest area of shark protection in the world. This represents an area nearly the size of the continental USA.

As part of a technical working group assembled to draft this new legislation, representatives from MCT, PEW, TNC, and a local private law firm are tasked to work with a selected group of staff from the FSM Attorney General’s Office, Department of Resource and Development, the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA) as well as representatives from the fishing industry in FSM. This group now aims to work with the Office of the President of the FSM to ensure that this landmark legislation is signed and enacted into law in the coming weeks.

02.01.2015. PALAU. Pew Unveils Pioneering Technology to Help End Illegal Fishing

Project Eyes on the Seas will launch initially with a "Virtual Watch Room" monitoring the waters surrounding Easter Island, a Chilean territory, and the Pacific island nation of Palau. Click here to read.

02.01.2015: KOSRAE. Yela Ka Forest Conservation Easement in Nature Conservancy Magazine.

Read story here: http://magazine.nature.org/features/enchanted-forest.xml

18 DEC 2014: New Study Maximizes Benefits of No-Take Marine Reserves for Coral Reef Fisheries

Arlington, Virginia — A new paper gives conservation practitioners unprecedented access to species-specific information to use in the design and monitoring of tropical no-take marine reserves. Scientists with The Nature Conservancy and several partner organizations (the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, the Laboratoire d’Excellence ‘CORAIL’, The University of Hawaii at Hilo, Silliman University and the University of Queensland) reviewed and analyzed movement patterns of 34 families (210 species) of coral reef fishes.

“Synthesizing this information allows us, for the first time, to provide recommendations regarding the configuration (size, spacing and location) of no-take marine reserves (also known as fisheries closures or replenishment areas) to maximize their benefits for coral reef fisheries management and biodiversity protection,” said Alison Green, senior marine scientist in the Asia Pacific program at The Nature Conservancy.

Well-Designed Marine Reserves

How local populations of fish species are connected to one another is a key ecological factor to consider in marine reserve network design. For marine reserves to protect biodiversity and enhance fisheries outside their boundaries, they must be able to sustain focal species within their boundaries, and be spaced such that they are mutually replenishing and provide spillover of adults and larval to fished areas. As a result, the configuration (size, spacing and location) of individual reserves within a network should be informed by larval dispersal and movement patterns of the species for which protection is required. In the past, empirical data on larval dispersal and movement patterns of adults and juveniles of many tropical marine species have been unavailable or inaccessible to practitioners responsible for marine reserve design.

Photo: Trina Leberer

Results and Implications

This review of movement patterns of 34 families (210 species) of coral reef fishes demonstrates that movement patterns (home ranges, ontogenetic shifts and spawning migrations) vary among and within species, and are influenced by a range of factors (e.g., size, sex, behavior, density, habitat characteristics, season, tide and time of day).  Some species move <0.1–0.5 km (e.g. damselfishes, butterflyfishes and angelfishes), <0.5–3 km (e.g. most parrotfishes, goatfishes and surgeonfishes) or 3–10 km (e.g. large parrotfishes and wrasses), while others move tens to hundreds (e.g. some groupers, emperors, snappers and jacks) or thousands of kilometers (e.g. some sharks and tuna). Larval dispersal distances tend to be <5–15 km, and self-recruitment is common. The recommendations from this paper are:
·         Marine reserves should be more than twice the size of the home range of focal species (in all directions), thus marine reserves of various sizes will be required depending on which species require protection, how far they move and if other effective protection is in place outside reserves;
·         Reserve spacing should be < 15 km, with smaller reserves spaced more closely; and
·         Marine reserves should include habitats that are critical to the life history of focal species (e.g., home ranges, nursery grounds, migration corridors and spawning aggregations), and be located to accommodate movement patterns among these.

“We also provide practical advice for practitioners about how to use this information to design, evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of marine reserve networks within broader ecological, socioeconomic and management contexts,” added Rebecca Weeks, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian Research Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

This paper is the latest in a series of scientific reviews to provide ecological guidelines for improving the benefits of tropical marine protected areas for fisheries management and biodiversity in the face of climate change all of which are available at:  www.coraltriangleinitiative.org.

The paper is available online at:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12155/abstract   

17 DEC 2014: New Coral Research for Palau

A multi-national team of scientists is to begin an extensive research survey of many of Palau’s coral reefs in January.  The research is a joint project of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, the Coral Reef Research Foundation, and Palau International Coral Research Center (PICRC). The researchers will live onboard the research vessel the M/Y Golden Shadow as they survey reefs around Angaur, Peleliu, Ngerchong, Ngeruktabel, Koror and Babeldaob, Ngkesol, Ngerael, Kayangel and Ngeruangl/Velasco.

The purpose of the research is to collect detailed information about the health and state of the reefs. The team of scientists will identify and record population information on coral, reef fishes, algae and invertebrates, as well as other organisms. A major component of the surveys will focus on commercially important reef fishes and invertebrates, such as groupers, sea cucumbers, and crustaceans.

The scientists will also take note of the health of these reef communities and any stressors that could affect them, like the coral-eating Crown of Thorns Seastars, coral diseases, or ocean acidification. The team will measure how resilient the coral is to those stressors.

In addition the scientists will compare marine protected areas with those that do not have protection to make an evaluation of marine management strategies. They will also assess damage on the Northern reefs caused in 2013 by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Once the team has completed the research they will analyze the data and create a detailed scientific report. The report will be available to all local communities, government and non-government agencies, and relevant stakeholders in the region. This information can directly help with ongoing management and conservation of Palau’s coral reefs.

The research is part of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s five-year Global Reef Expedition, a mission to survey coral reefs around the world. The Foundation has recently completed similar research in the Solomon Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, in Tonga, Fiji, The Cook Islands, and New Caledonia.

During the research period the science team will send out daily updates and photos of their work. To track their progress please sign up for email updates on the Foundation’s website, www.livingoceansfoundation.org, and find the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation on Facebook to see more images from Palau’s reefs.

About the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (LOF), founded by Khaled bin Sultan, is conducting the world’s largest coral reef survey and high resolution mapping expedition, as part of its 5 year Global Reef Expedition. The Expedition is helping LOF realize its mission to provide science-based solutions to protect and restore ocean health. As part of its commitment to Science Without Borders®, Living Oceans provides its data and information to leading ocean-focused organizations, governments, scientists, and local communities so that they can use knowledge to work toward sustainable ocean protection. For more information visit www.livingoceansfoundation.org

02 DEC 2014: PALAU: PICRC Hosts MPA Workshop

Photo by PICRC

From November 20-21, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) conducted a 2-day workshop at PICRC’s Kedarm conference room, to discuss a potential plan to build capacity of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) management in Palau. This workshop aimed at highlighting and addressing the main management gaps and needs of each state with MPAs that are part of the Protected Areas Network (PAN).Partners involved in the workshop were PAN Office (PAN O), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Palau Community College (PCC), Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR), Palau Coral Reef Island Ecosystem (P-CoRIE), PAN Coordinators and State Conservation Officers. Eight of the 12 states that have PAN MPAs were present during the workshop.  The states that sent representatives to the workshop included Airai, Hatohobei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngardmau, Ngiwal and Ngchesar.  This workshop was funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

During the first day of the workshop, PAN coordinators and conservation officers discussed and addressed their gaps and needs in term of marine management. The major gaps and needs that were discussed can be categorized into the following: management and planning, reporting and communication, marine monitoring skills, equipment and materials, education and outreach and transport.  The workshop assessed needs of the states, of the PAN coordinators and those needs at the level of the Conservation Officers. A matrix of these gaps and needs was made during the first day of the workshop. Once the needs of each state were well defined, the overlapping and most recurring needs were retained and listed to represent the best overall situation in Palau. For instance, an important need at the state level was poorly defined and enforced rules and regulations at PAN sites.  At the PAN coordinators level, one of the major needs was the lack of a monitoring plan and protocol; while at the conservation officers’ level, a recurrent need was highlighted to be the lack of marine monitoring skills, especially field experience.

On the second day of the workshop, PICRC along with partner agencies, PANO, P-CoRIE, TNC, BMR and PCC met in the morning to discuss a possible program to meet these needs and build a strategic plan of capacity building for the next 3 to 5 years. Depending on the needs, different approaches were considered to address the different needs identified. The whole capacity building program will include workshops, trainings, meetings, retreats, classes at PCC and on-site-assistance over the next four years.  In the afternoon, the governors were invited to discuss the plan that has been prepared and to provide feedback. Governors or their representatives from six states were able to participate (Ngaraard, Ngiwal, Kayangel, Airai, Melekeok, and Koror). Overall, the Governors were satisfied with what was presented but asked that the capacity building plan be presented at the next PAN Management Committee meeting so more state governors can hear about the plan and provide their feedback.  The next steps are now to develop a more comprehensive strategy and develop the cost estimates and budgeting that such a program will require.

Part of PICRC mission is to participate in initiatives to positively impact conservation and management in Palau. Through the development of capacity building programs, PICRC along with partner agencies work toward improving the management of the Protected Areas Network, to better conserve and manage coral-reef resources for the generations to come.

10 NOV 2014: Micronesia Conservation Trust Announces RFPs

Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) has announced two new Requests for Proposal:
  1. A redesign of the MCT Website (click here for the full RFP) due 21 November 2014.
  2. The development of an FSM PAN Law, Framework and Country Program Strategy (click here for the full RFP) due 21 November 2014.  

9 Nov 2014: Congratulations to H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President of Palau , on his selection as a 2014 Champion of the Earth Laureate by the United Nations Environment Programme

H.E. Tommy Remengesau, Jr. President of Palau for strengthening the economic and environmental resilience of Palau by spearheading national policies to protect biodiversity. Read full story here: http://www.unep.org/champions/#winnners

29 OCT 2014: MCT and APIC Execute Formal Partnership in Tokyo

On Saturday, October 18th, Mr. William Kostka, Executive Director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), visited Tokyo to execute a formal partnership with Japan’s Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC). Attending the signing ceremony where Ambassador Peter Sato, President of APIC, Ambassador Shoji Sato, Executive Director of APIC, Mr. Junya Nakano, Director of Climate Change Division, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Megumi Araki, Director of APIC, Ms. Ikuko Matsumoto of the Asian Development Bank, and Ms. Kana Nagayama, also of APIC.
Photo: MCT
The signing ceremony comes on the heels of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Convention of the Parties (CBD-COP12) recently held in Pyeonchang, South Korea, where APIC and MCT, represented by Mr. Kostka, had featured prominently for co-hosting several high-level events with the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), as well as with Governments and international organizations who support islands and sustainable development in islands. In July of 2014, MCT received a $10,000 grant from APIC to print the Micronesia Challenge Business Plan/Sustainable Finance Plan and to help promote the Micronesia Challenge at major regional and international events. This support has allowed MCT to feature the Micronesia Challenge at the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau, UN Small Island Developing States Conference in Samoa and at the UN CBD-COP in South Korea. Also contributing to the development of the booklets and the Micronesia Challenge Initiative (www.micronesiachallenge.org) are the Australian Government, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Environment Programme, US Federal Agencies, US Private Foundations, the German Government and several other donors and technical partners. The Micronesia Challenge Initiative is a commitment by the Governments of Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands, Guam and CNMI to put under effective conservation 30% of Micronesia’s nearshore marine resources and 20% of its terrestrial resources by 2020. The parties to the Micronesia Challenge also aim to raise an endowment of $56M, of which $18M has been secured and is currently being managed by the Micronesia Conservation Trust.
This MoU between APIC and MCT establishes a working relationship which describes the two organizations’ desire and willingness to work together to secure financial and technical resources in Japan  to support improved resources management and sustainable development efforts, inter alia, in the field of environment conservation, within the jurisdictions of Micronesia.  This entails Partners’ communicating, and leveraging overlapping resources with roles and responsibilities of each organization, with the overarching goal to achieve specific environmental conservation and sustainable development outcomes.
“Japan and Micronesia have always had a special relationship, which have produced some tangible outcomes in our region”, said Mr. Kostka. “This newly established partnership between APIC and MCT will ensure that this rich and consequential relationship continues”. Some of APIC’s other contributions to Micronesia include the establishment of a scholarship program which supports the costs of a Xavier High School graduate to Sophia University in Japan.
Peter Y. Sato, president of APIC, emphasized the conclusion of the MoU as a meaningful step forward in enhancing the collaboration between Japan and Micronesia in coping with many issues of the global warming agenda.  “Japan as an island country surrounded by the ocean has long been committed to preserve natural resources to sustain her quality of life. To us, Japanese, fisheries in Micronesia contributes a great deal to our fishing industry.  In these respects, we fully share the significance of the Micronesia Challenge, which is so universally supported by many people and nations in the world.  It is in our great interest indeed to support MCT and Micronesia's leaders in ensuring that these resources are sustainably used and managed for the benefit of the people of Micronesia and Japan.", he remarked.  He also referred to the progress also being made in education as the first Xavier student had started her study under the Ushiba Scholarship program at Sophia University this autumn.