Progress so far
Palau and Yap communities sign an agreement to collaborate
In 2010 we developed two conservation agreements with communities in Palau and Yap who own areas that encompass more than 1,500 km2 (370,000 acres) of open ocean, coral reef, mangrove, and sea grass habitat. These are large, biologically important reef complexes that are immediately threatened by unauthorized fishing and community over-exploitation of sensitive species. They are both strong candidates for successful climate change adaptation if unauthorized fishing is prevented and community fishing adheres to catch limits and no-take areas.
The first agreement is with the owners of Helen Reef Atoll located in the southwest portion of the Palauan archipelago. The agreement encompasses Helen Reef Atoll, nearby Hatohobei Island, and open ocean between the island and the atoll (total area: about 270,000 acres). Helen Reef Atoll has been described by Dr. Rob Van Woesik, environmental editor of the journal Coral Reefs, as a large, healthy coral community, a premier example of an intact atoll ecosystem that recovered from the 1998 bleaching episode that severely damaged reefs throughout the western Pacific. Dr. van Woesik and other scientists performed a baseline biological survey of Helen Reef in 2000. In collaboration with the Hatohobei Community, OneReef will repeat the biological survey to establish a baseline for a 20-year agreement that can be renewed. Under the agreement, the Hatohobei community will take a precautionary approach to conservation and management that involves a large no-take marine protected area, verifiable catch limits, annual ecological monitoring, and continued community consultation. The agreement will ensure that adequate funding is available for a team of six government-deputized conservation officers and their material needs, including a radar station for monitoring vessel traffic and fast boat used to apprehend vessels suspected of unauthorized fishing. The agreement also supports an annual environmental youth camp at the atoll.
Satellite view with monitoring sites
The second agreement is with the people of Ngulu Atoll in Yap State. At 100,000 acres, Ngulu Atoll is about twice the spatial area of Helen Reef Atoll, and has also been biologically surveyed and assessed as a healthy reef complex that also recovered well from the 1998 bleaching episode. The community has established a no-take marine protected zone over 75% of the area and imposed catch limits. A newly installed radar system is used to monitor vessel traffic. In 2011, conservation officers from Helen Reef will work with regional partners and OneReef staff to train conservation officers for Ngulu Atoll.
OneReef is working with Helen Reef community to co-finance a 47-foot aluminum auxiliary sailing catamaran that will support enforcement, monitoring, and community engagement activities at both of these sites. The vessel will also assist with community engagement, biological surveys, and training at new sites in Palau and Yap State.
The Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), based in Pohnpei, will serve as the conservation agent for agreements in the region. As such, it serves as fiscal agent and administers an oversight board with seats for community and regional leaders, financiers, and scientists. Any modifications to agreements are executed by the oversight board in accordance with a board charter and by-laws.