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Marshall Islands

Ajeltake Village


Conservation benefit: New 1,280-acre no-take marine area for 15 years

Community benefit: Community cultural center

Date Approved: 06.2024


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The story is familiar: Fishermen on a Pacific island report that there are fewer fish today than there were five years ago, and that the remaining fish are significantly smaller. They point to overfishing, pollution, and climate change as culprits. In the semi-rural community of Ajeltake, fishers also cite destructive fishing methods (using bleach on the reefs, for example), boat anchors that break off chunks of coral reefs, and the loss of traditional management practices that kept fish populations stable.

To fight these trends, the Ajeltake community is creating a 1,280-acre locally managed marine protected area, where fishing is banned. This will conserve the populations of many species of reef, pelagic, and migratory fish, including (to name just a few) skipjack and yellowfin tuna, rabbitfish, humpback snapper, and camouflage grouper. Sea cucumbers and giant clams, which have been overharvested, will also benefit.

Working with the Marshall Islands Conservation Society and government entities, the community will formalize a management plan and add it to the Marshall Islands’ Protected Areas Network. In addition to prohibiting fishing, the regulations will protect coastal areas, prohibiting uprooting, damaging, or burning vegetation.

Buoys will mark the protected area’s boundaries, and large signs will set out the no-take rules. Community members will patrol the MPA as fish wardens, reporting suspicious activity to authorities. Violations can be punished by fines and imprisonment.

The project has strong support from community members and from traditional and civil leaders. Because part of the protected area belonged to a late high chief of Majuro and late president of the RMI, there is heightened respect for the protected area.

The village will build a cultural center where young people can learn “the Marshallese way.” Elders will pass on Marshallese culture through traditional storytelling, and would teach indigenous cooking, native language, and traditional craft and artistry skills.

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