Ulithi Marine Management and Conservation Project: Locally Managed Marine Areas and Sustainable Development With the Communities of Ulithi Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia
Welcome to our marine management and conservation project on the outer islands of Yap State, with a focus on Ulithi Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia. This is a community-based effort where the people have an active role in developing and implementing the management plan, and collecting data to assess results. It is a collaborative effort between the communities of Ulithi, a dedicated team of scientists, and the Oceanic Society. There are currently two main areas of focus for marine conservation on Falalop: Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) and sustainable resource development (this website), and The Ulithi Sea Turtle Project which focuses on the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas.
For more information about Oceanic Society’s conservation and ecotour programs, visit their website. For information about Bluecology, an organization supporting this and other efforts in Pacific Islands, visit the Bluecology website.
Coral reefs around the world are currently suffering from multiple stressors, leading to a global decline that has been ongoing for decades. The status of coral reefs and associated fisheries of many remote island communities in the Western Pacific is not well known, yet these communities are on the front lines of critical habitat management and use, and they rely heavily on their reef resources. There is a dearth of research in this region of the world, and coupled with a loss of traditional management and recent changes in fishing practices, this has led to a steady decline in both needed resources and reef health. Through extensive reef surveys, interviews, and community meetings, our work on Ulithi Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia has shown that the communities are experiencing a decline in both fish catch and reef health. They are aware of these declines, and eager to address them. With food security concerns, biological invasions, ecosystem degradation and climate change associated problems (including erosion and sea level rise), it is a key moment in history to work with these communities to sustain their environment and their cultural integrity, which in turn will support global ocean protection.
Managing and conserving oceans in regions where people rely directly on the reefs for their livelihoods should start with an understanding of the problems, and of the cultural, historical and ecological context of environmental change. It must start with the people themselves. Our story starts with them, with listening to their story first, and combining it with the picture the reef provides through rigorous sampling. With the support and direction of the local communities, and at their invitation, we are implementing a unique approach to advance adaptive marine conservation and management in Micronesian outer islands. We work with communities to help them develop and implement needed changes by sharing the ecological knowledge we acquire from the reefs, and by listening to what they have to say about their reef resources, the history of declines, and traditional management practices. This is an approach to empower communities to better understand and sustainably manage their reef ecosystems. Communities in the Federated States of Micronesia autonomously govern over one million square miles of ocean in the Western Pacific – extending more than 1700 miles from west to east across one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. They, not us, hold the key to successful management and conservation in this vast archipelago.