Welcome to One People One Reef!
Working together to keep the reefs, culture and people
of the Micronesian Outer Islands healthy.
One People One Reef is about working with outer island communities to bring traditions and modern science together in a revolutionary approach to sustainable ocean management.
Micronesian Outer islanders from the remote atolls of the Yap outer islands in the western Pacific have sustainably managed their oceans for centuries, even millennia. Their culture, traditions and livelihoods are intimately linked to the reefs that surround their islands. However, their future is threatened by rapid environmental and cultural change.
In 2010, they recognized a decline in fish populations, and the need to address that. The people realized that their health, their communities, and their reefs were experiencing rapid change. They asked for help to learn more about how to manage a sustainable food supply from their oceans in the face of these changes, a critical issue for their present and future wellbeing. We are a team of scientists who came together to respond to the outer islanders call for assistance. Our response was a revolutionary approach that lets communities lead through traditional management backed by modern science.
We talk extensively with people to better assess the nature of fish and reef declines (including changes in fishing practices), historical context, and the role that traditions – and the loss of them – may play.
We understand the critical link between traditional knowledge and environmental sustainability – the key to effective ocean management.
We conduct extensive ecological surveys of the reefs to better understand the effects that fishing and other anthropogenic impacts are having, and we share what we find with the communities.
We discuss specific findings, such as the link between parrotfish declines, night spearfishing, and algal overgrowth on reefs and how traditional management could address this.
We are encouraging a reconnection to traditional ways without ignoring modern influences - such as motor boats (rather than abandoning them which is not practical) to address problems in resource abundance and reef health.
With the support and direction of the local communities, and at their invitation, we are implementing a unique approach to advance adaptive management and conservation in Micronesian outer islands.
The program is managed and directed by the Community. Community members are trained to continue collecting data, and the science team remains as an advisory body and helps to analyze data and provide guidance.
This project is realizing unprecedented success!
The 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 make their own decisions, community by community with their own councils. They can implement management immediately if they need to, and each community can adopt a plan that is unique to their needs and environmental context. In addition, they have a deep historical knowledge of management and traditions that have protected their ocean resources over time They, not us, hold the key to successful management and conservation in this vast archipelago.
As of Spring 2014, 3 of the 4 islands of Ulithi Atoll have adopted new management planning. We plan to work with the 4th island this summer. This will create the first Atoll-wide management plan encompassing over 550 square kilometers. Ulithi is the fourth largest atoll in the world. Most importantly, communities are coming together to discuss these critical issues.
In February of 2014, along with our Ulithian colleagues, a team of us visited the Yap outer islands, traveling over 1000 nautical miles aboard the Yap State Ship Hapilmohol 1. We visited with each community, all the way to Satawal, and surveyed the reefs. The result of that trip will be a historic gathering of outer islanders on the Atoll of Ulithi for a marine management and planning workshop in the summer of 2014.
“For it is true that the Ocean unites us and brings us together but the Reef sustains us in so many ways.”
One People, One Reef: Summer Outer Islands Workshop
Interest for our project is growing among the Outer Islanders and these remote communities have asked for our help!
We are planning our first sustainable ocean management workshop for the Summer of 2014 that would bring together representatives from across the outer islands to help develop management plans and share knowledge about reef ecology and fish life histories.
However we need funds to facilitate this historic event! In order to attain our goals we have started a crowd-funding campaign.
Our workshop will bring community leaders from remote outer islands to the Ulithi Atoll for a historic meeting.
It’s a long way from Monterey to Ulithi. And there’s a lot of water between here and there. Flying over 7000 miles of open water really helps you develop a new appreciation for the enormity of the Pacific Ocean. It also leaves you in awe of the incredible skill of the original island navigators who used hand-carved canoes to travel between tiny specs of land scattered in the middle of this incredible vastness! Some of the finest traditional navigators in the world are known to have come from Micronesia. Fortunately for us, planes travel much faster than canoes and have GPS navigation. Our particular route from Monterey passed through airports in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Guam, Palau, and Yap, before finally reaching Ulithi. There was no additional air fare to get off for a few days in the Republic of Palau, so we had planned a little side adventure and spent four days kayaking and snorkeling our way among Palau’s beautiful Rock Islands and its unique coral reefs before continuing on our journey via Yap to Ulithi. United Airlines could take us only as far as Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia, roughly 7,000 miles from CSUMB, but still 100 miles from Ulithi. The final leg to the island of Falalop on Ulithi Atoll required travel on a small propeller plane operated by Pacific Mission Aviation. Our pilot, Amos, was amazing. He managed to squeeze all of his passengers, their luggage, and all their science equipment (including 2 ROVs) into the tiny plane and make a picture-perfect landing on the short Ultithi airstrip, the two ends of which meet the ocean on opposite sides of Falalop island. Insert a description of the image here. The PMA plane that carried us and our ROVs to and from Ulithi. It would take more time than I have to describe all of the wonderful people we met and the amazing things we did and saw during our stay, so we’ll just summarize a few highlights from each day.
Day 1: We are greeted at the “airport” by Jon (“Junior”) Rulmal, Director of Ulithi’s Conservation Program and our host and guide. Junior is a native of Ulithi, but also lived on the US mainland for a while, so he serves as our cultural liason. He helps us understand local customs and interact respectfully with the local villagers on Falalop and the other Ulithi islands we visit. From the airport we walk all the way across the island (7 minutes) to our base of operations, the Ulithi Adventure Lodge, where we meet the other members of our visiting team, including several marine ecologists (Nicole, Giacomo, Avigdor, Michelle, and Peter) and a San Francisco based physician (Ricardo). After the meet and greet, we move ourselves and our ROV equipment into our room and set up the room as a mineature electronics workshop to complete a few remaining details on the ROV.