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
Our workshop will bring community leaders from remote outer islands to the Ulithi Atoll for a historic meeting.
Day 2: We get a rare opportunity to visit a nearby uninhabited island (Gielap) where hundreds of sea turtles come ashore at night to nest and lay eggs. During the day, we snorkel on the coral reef there, watch zillions of hermit crabs scuttling underfoot, dine on a beach-cooked meal of coconut crab, fresh-caught fish, and breadfruit, and watch a gorgeous sunset while waiting quietly for the turtles to come ashore. About an hour after dark, Junior escorts us a green turtle that has begun to lay eggs in a sand pit it dug under a tree. The ride home is surreal. Three boats speeding invisibly across a dark sea. Stars glittering above against a jet black sky, bioluminscent plankton glittering like blue-green glowing embers in the spray kicked up by the boat.
Day 3: Josh and Steve spent the day working on the Ulithi ROV, while James took our Catalina ROV to the island of Asor to check out some of the shallow reefs and the old military wrecks there. Lawrence, one of our Ulithian boat drivers starts operating the ROV and masters it quickly!
Day 4: This day is a special treat and a great honor. We have been invited to the island of Mogmog, home of the high chief. Mogmog is the most traditional of all the Ulithi Islands. The ecologists will be meeting with the chief and villagers to share results from their research the previous year. We will be introducing the new research we’ll be doing for them with our ROV. Unfortunately, our Ulithi ROV isn’t ready yet, so we bring one of our smaller C-DEBI ROVs to pass around for “show and tell.” Junior is visibly nervous about this visit. Western culture and traditional Ulithian culture are different. He wants us to make a good impression. The three of us get dressed in “thus,” the traditional garmet worn by men. A thu is a piece of long cloth wrapped between the legs and around the waist to form something resembling a hybrid between a skirt and a loincloth. It has to be tied and tightened just right, or it can fall off. Junior warned: “Don’t let your thu fall off, especially in front of the chief…that would be bad!”