Community Steward Spotlight: Rosania Victor, Helen Reef (Palau)

Rosania VictorThough marine conservation is often organized and led by dedicated Micronesian male stewards, Rosania Victor is an example of how women in the region also play an integral role in protecting and managing their marine protected areas.  For over 20 years, Rosania has helped coordinate the Helen Reef Resource Management Program (HRRMP) for Hatohobei State in the Republic of Palau. Earlier this month, Rosania was able to lead her team through a high-risk situation where a large fishing vessel carrying about 30 Indonesians and Filipinos disembarked on Helen Island, roughly 560 km from the main island of Koror.  Since the three conservation officers stationed on Helen were outnumbered, Rosania maintained constant communication with them over a period of two days until the Palau National Maritime Division could send out reinforcements. Despite the day-to-day stress, Rosania casually stated, “I enjoy what I do because it’s meaningful…we are passionate and committed to protecting our traditional way of life.”

Helen Reef is a 163 square kilometer enclosed atoll located in the Southwest of Palau that boasts the highest known hard coral diversity of any insular Pacific atoll and supports some of the largest nesting seabird colonies and unique fauna compositions in Micronesia. Helen Reef continues to face threats of illegal destructive fishing by large foreign fishing vessels from neighboring Indonesia and the Philippines.  In 2001, the Hatohobei community declared Helen Reef a state marine protected area. Since then, Rosania served in various capacities to support the HRRMP, which is comprised of five board members, eight conservation officers, an Administrative Officer, Deputy Program Manager, and Program Manager. Despite her reluctance, she eventually became the Program Manager in 2013. When asked why she was hesitant to fill this post, she quickly explained that she had little management experience at the time and thought she needed to learn more.  Today, Rosania is more confident in her role because of the consistent support and guidance afforded to her by her board and the rest of the community. Although HRRMP faces challenges such as limited human and financial resources, her team continues to celebrate their achievements over the years.