As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Ant Atoll holds local and global significance. OneReef has pioneered novel technologies and long-term management initiatives to end poaching on Ant’s reefs.
Ant Atoll is located roughly 9 miles southwest of Pohnpei Island in the Federated States of Micronesia. With the highest live coral cover in all of Pohnpei, Ant Atoll has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve comprising 36,000 acres of nesting, breeding, nursery, and spawning sites for a myriad of marine species.
Perhaps due to this local abundance of fish, Ant has been threatened by an increase in illegal fishing. Its traditional leader, Rohsa William Hawley, recognized a sharp decline in reef fish populations starting approximately 10 years ago, after his family moved from the Atoll to the main island.
Through OneReef’s coordination, Rohsa made a formal commitment to work with local government and conservation organizations under a co-management arrangement to design and implement a management plan – investing his own resources and exercising his traditional authority.
As a first step, our science partners at Scripps Institution of Oceanography performed a baseline assessment of the reefs. They concluded that overfishing is a major threat to Ant Atoll’s pristine resources, but that reef populations are healthy enough to recover if no-fishing bans are implemented in the next 3 years.
Together, we are building a robust enforcement and management strategy to protect Ant Atoll and recover its pristine reef. Rohsa personally hired conservation officers to live on Ant Atoll and patrol for illegal fishing boats, allowing for constant protection and enforcement. OneReef has provided enforcement training, scientific expertise, and capacity training.
We are in process of installing a marine radar at Ant Atoll to provide “eyes in the sky” and detect illegal fishing beyond the line of sight. Our partner, the Anthropocene Institute, has developed innovative software to monitor boat traffic in real time, upload data directly to the internet, and set alarms for suspicious boat behavior in no-fishing zones.
This will allow international teams to engage in enforcement and collaboratively protect the atoll, while reducing patrol costs. We know this technology will be a huge advancement in the protection of the reef. In addition to this pioneering technology, we are also helping to build a floating ranger station to protect some of the valuable spawning reefs from poaching on the far side of the atoll.