Cross-site sharing of conservation lessons is vital to maximizing outcomes. OneReef’s partner, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), annually brings together all the Pohnpei State communities that manage their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) so they can share information and best practices. The discussions at this cross-site meeting help OneReef change our programs and better support our partner communities.
This year, Woaun Koapin Soamwoai (WKS) Communities hosted the cross-site meeting on August 14th and 15th at their community center in Enipein (Kitti municipality). The traditional leadership of Kitti municipality inspired the gathering with their presence and remarks. Besides the Nahtik MPA and Enipein Mangrove Reserve managed by the WKS community, the other sites included Ant Atoll Biosphere Reserve, Palikir MPA, Sapwitik MPA, Nanwap MPA, Dehpehk/Takaiou MPA, Pakin MPA, and Peniou Island. The event was attended by traditional leaders, community chiefs, community conservation officers, and several newly hired ordained Catholic Deacons.
Most communities shared that their management plans have been updated and are aligning with their goals and objectives. Each community spoke about its successes and challenges for the past year and presented new work plans for 2021. The work plans were then improved with feedback from the attendees. Some notable lessons shared were:
- The floating ranger station shared by Lehnger and Dehpehk/Takaiou has made patrolling much more effective in the MPAs managed by these communities
- Many communities have been installing signs and buoys to show the boundaries of their MPAs clearly. This has helped reduce violations by fishers.
- Some communities expressed the need to replace their old boats and other outdated equipment. In some cases, the distance between the MPA and land exceeds the range of the existing 2-way radios. When a Conservation Officer is out patrolling, he cannot communicate with the community in case of an issue with a poacher or other problem.
- Some communities conveyed that they need additional help and support – training on report writing; improving communications between Conservation Officers (Rangers) within the same community, with Fish and wildlife, and local police officers.
There was brainstorming around some of the issues raised, and the next steps have been established. For example, CSP and OneReef will meet with Fish and Wildlife to resolve communication issues, including repeaters to increase the range of the 2-way radios. CSP and OneReef will also facilitate a “train the trainer” workshop on report writing and other communications, which two members from each MPA will attend. The two members (“trainers”) will then train the conservation officers in their communities.
This cross-site meeting was championed 18 years ago by the current CSP Director, Mr. Eugene Joseph, under the direction of Mr. Patterson Shed, the CSP Director at that time. Asked for his views on the 18th Annual Cross-Site, Mr. Patterson Shed said, “cross-site learning exchanges are positive networking opportunities” and create a forum to “celebrate (accomplishments) and share lessons. This initiative helped achieve the original objective of bringing high ranking traditional leaders’ support into the fold.” Mr. Patterson Shed believes that it is time to increase MPA sites’ commitment and accountability through the lessons learned. He also believes that it is beneficial to engage at the National level in FSM (Federated States of Micronesia) to access more significant resources for each of the communities that manage MPAs.