On January 25, 2015, the Pohnpei Fisheries Management Working Group kicked off a campaign to save Pohnpei State's watersheds and fisheries during a special session of the Mwoahl en Wahu Ileile en Wein Pohnpei (The Paramount Chiefs Council of Pohnpei Island).
The Group, composed of government and non-government organizations, along with Pohnpei fishers and farmers, appeared before the Council with the Nature Conservancy's Pacific Director, Bill Raynor. Mr Raynor thanked the island's Paramount Chiefs for 35 years of hospitality and respect during which time they made him the first American village "talking" chief (Pelien Dahl). He urged the Traditional Leaders to take control of the Pohnpei Watershed Forest Reserve and the Marine Protected Areas work around the state in order to realize the vision of those who began these partnerships 29 years ago. The vision remains to protect Pohnpei's rich natural resources in order to secure and improve the quality of life for the people of Pohnpei as they depend on these resources for their livelihoods and survival. The Paramount Chiefs Council unanimously agreed to take the lead in this effort and to ensure that the campaign message: Ahi Mour, Ahi Pwukoah (My life. My community. My reef. My responsibility), reaches all the citizens and residents of Pohnpei.
Following this commitment, and at the invitation of the Soukinsehnleng (Paramount Chief of the municipality of Kitti), the Group was able to present on the rapidly decreasing areas of intact forests and depleting reef fish stocks in Pohnpei at the gathering of the traditional leaders of Kitti municipality on February 14, 2015. Nahnsahuririn Madolenihmw, Mr. Pius Hadley, who is also the Director of the Pohnpei Department of Land & Natural Resources, headed the campaign at the meeting in the community of Enipein Pah, Kitti and continued pushing the message shared by Bill Raynor. At the assembly, Soukinsehnleng strongly declared (Poahngoak) that he will no longer allow any illegal, undersized and threatened species in traditional events. The threatened species include turtles, bump-head parrotfish(kemeik) and Napoleon wrasse (Merer). He instructed all the section chiefs of Kitti (Soumas) to do the same in their respective village (Kousapw) feasts and ceremonies. He further instructed the Kitti municipal government to ensure that his message (Poahngoak) is heard and observed by all the residents of Kitti Municipality.
The campaign continued to progress at a gathering of over 100 local government council members, during the Pohnpei State local government Council Summit on February 19, 2015. A highlight included Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture Administrator Joseph Saimon's response to a question on the need for stronger penalties for fishers; "the best law is the responsibility we take for ourselves", he said. Another highlight was a remark from Council Woman, Yuko Nakasone, who said that she found the presentation 'very enlightening' - she would not have known the gravity and urgency of the problem were it not for the presentation that Executive Director of CSP, Eugene Joseph, delivered at the gathering.
On 21 February 2014, the message was then shared at a meeting of the Catholic Deacons in Pohnpei. Following discussions among the Deacons and the Working Group, Father Julio Angken and the Deacons affirmed that they would all support and spread the awareness campaign amongst their respective parishes. " The campaign is very much in alignment with our spiritual values. We must be grateful for the gifts in natural resources that God has given us and it is our responsibility to take care of them", said Father Julio Angken.
The Working Group will continue to campaign in all the municipalities in Pohnpei and with other stakeholder groups. The Working Group is also collaborating with the Pohnpei Women's Council, which has adopted the Ahi Mour, Ahi Pwukoah theme for this year's International Women's Day celebrations on March 13, 2015.
Vast swath of western Pacific closed to commercial shark fishing
WASHINGTON—The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) passed legislation Feb. 4 to create a shark sanctuary in the country's full exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which covers nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) in the western Pacific Ocean.
The Micronesia Conservation Trust, which has worked the past four years with The Pew Charitable Trusts and other conservation organizations to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia, welcomed the legislation. The measure, expected to be signed into law by President Manny Mori, prohibits the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts.
"Our commitment to the Micronesia Challenge includes the protection of the top predators in our ocean," President Mori said. The Micronesia Challenge is a regional declaration of conservation goals to which the nation agreed in 2006. "Our traditional stories say that sharks protect the people. Now the people will protect the sharks."
On a broader scale, passage of the legislation marks the completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which already includes the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. In total, the area of protected shark habitat across the contiguous area is larger than the size of the European Union.
Creation of the FSM sanctuary follows a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Micronesia Conservation Trust, based in Pohnpei. Led by executive director Willy Kostka, the organization built a coalition of conservationists, traditional leaders, and students to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia. This was a collaborative effort between national and state governments and various stakeholders, including the Office of the President, Senator Singkoro Harper and the FSM National Congress, FSM Department of Justice, FSM R&D, NORMA, National Fisheries Corporation, Caroline Fisheries Corporation, Luen Thai, Pohnpei Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and local conservation organizations and partners.
"More than 8,000 students from across the region signed petitions to support these protections," Kostka said. "This is something the people wanted."
Passage of the FSM's law creates the 10th shark sanctuary in the world and cements the country as a global leader in shark conservation. The sanctuary will protect iconic species such as silky and thresher sharks, which are considered near threatened and threatened, respectively, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Worldwide, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction.
"The completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is truly a landmark action because it joins together a massive swath of the western Pacific as a trans-boundary sanctuary for all the sharks that migrate across this huge ocean region," said Angelo Villagomez, a shark expert with Pew. "We look forward to working with our partners in the FSM to make certain that the implementing regulations ensure strong protections for sharks."
Sharks play an important role in maintaining the health of the entire ocean. As top predators, they regulate the variety and abundance of other species in the food web, including commercially important fish. Sharks help maintain healthy marine habitats, such as coral reefs.
They also are among the foremost species that scuba divers want to see, and their presence helps attracts tourists to these islands. By establishing a shark sanctuary, the FSM is acting to strengthen the marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, and helping to secure industries, such as tourism, that depend on a healthy ocean.
MCT and Pew wish to thank the following people, organizations, and government agencies, for whom this sanctuary could not have been completed without:
Mwoalen Wahu Ileile en wein Pohnpei (Traditional Leadership Council of Pohnpei State)
Micronesia Traditional Leaders Council
H.E. President Emmanuel "Manny" Mori
Micronesia Chief Executives
Association of Pacific Island Legislatures and Members
FSM Congress and staff attorney, Alik Jackson
FSM R&D Secretary Marion Henry and Assistant Secretary Alissa Takesy
FSM Department of Justice
FSM Postal Services, Mrs. Ginger Porter-Mida
Chuuk State Governor, Honorable Mr. Johnson Elimo
Chuuk State Government
Chuuk State Fisheries, Resources, and Marine Conservation Agencies
Kosrae State Governor, Honorable Mr. Lyndon Jackson
Kosrae State Government
Kosrae State Fisheries, Resources, and Marine Conservation Agencies
Pohnpei State Governor, Honorable Mr. John Ehsa
Pohnpei State Government
Pohnpei State Fisheries, Resources, and Marine Conservation Agencies
Yap State Governor, Honorable Mr. Sebastian Anefal
Yap State Government
Yap State Fisheries, Resources, and Marine Conservation Agencies
National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA)
National Fisheries Corporation (NFC)
Caroline Fisheries Corporation (CFC)
The Nature Conservancy
Chuuk Conservation Society
Conservation Society of Pohnpei
Kosrae Conservation & Safety Organization
Yap Community Action Program
Pohnpei Youth Environment Ambassadors
Kembo Mida, Jr., Ramp and Mida
Island Girl Power
Marshall Islands Conservation Society (MICS)
Micronesia Shark Foundation
Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance (MINA)
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org