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Conservation benefit: Permanent protection of 173 acres of mangroves, fringing reef, and seagrass

Community benefit: Aquaculture facility to reseed reef and mangrove areas

Date Approved: 02.2021

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Ocean

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

Seagrass

This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

The increasing global demand for building materials reaches some of the most remote corners of the world, including Pohnpei Island in the central Pacific.

Near Awak Village, dredging machines are scraping up dead coral for use as fill in road and construction projects. Dredging is scarring the coastal and marine ecosystems that support Awak’s 1,500 residents, as well as historical sites. Dredging tears up coral reefs and generates sediment that smothers corals. It also alters the flow of water to mangrove forests, often killing them. The roads built to accommodate large machines also destroy coastal forests.

The Awak area has seven species of mangroves, which provide a nursery for mangrove crabs and many species of fish. Birds are abundant, including the endemic Pohnpei lorikeet (considered vulnerable by the IUCN), and the globally threatened Pohnpei kingfisher.

The proposed protected area includes a small dredging project, which the community hopes to stop from expanding. The traditional chiefs of the village are working to make the area part of the Pohnpei Protected Area Network. Inclusion would protect all intact mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and reefs in Awak. Only subsistence fishing would be allowed. (As part of this campaign, local NGOs made a short video.) Our project partners say that an agreement with Seacology will help the chiefs get legal protection for the area.

Traditionally, Awak is a fishing village. With a Seacology grant, the community is building a small aquaculture facility, where they will raise giant clams, rabbitfishes, and other species. The goal is to replenish the once teeming reefs and mangrove habitats nearby. All members of the village will have full access to the facility and the aquaculture products.

Clam larvae released in Awak Village’s lagoon will float on the current to nearby villages, benefitting them as well. We hope this will also spread the word about the need to protect mangroves, seagrass beds, and reefs around the whole bay.

Project Updates

June 2022

Aquaculture supplies have been delivered to the island. Traditional leaders, community members, and a local organization called U Katengen Moarosed decided to look at the possibility of expanding the project. At meetings in five villages, at least 90% of the community members supported expansion and designating the entire shoreline of U Municipality as an aquaculture site, to help stop dredging. The paramount chief of the municipality and 600 community members signed a petition asking the Pohnpei legislature to make this designation.

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February 2022

After problems securing land for the aquaculture facility, the village decided it wanted to shift its fish- and giant clam-rearing efforts to the water. After making sure the new plan was environmentally sound, we approved the change. The village will put rabbitfish pens offshore, away from reefs to avoid any damage. Farming rabbitfish, which are herbivorous, is an efficient way to increase fish populations and restock the reefs. The pens may may also make it more difficult for companies to get permits to dredge in the area.

A draft bill would designate the Awak Pah area as a community aquaculture site, to stop dredging and other destructive activities. The Pohnpei State Legislature also passed a bill that will allow dredging only for public projects in carefully selected areas.

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June 2021

Our NGO partner has been working with community members and has chosen someone to lead the construction. They expect to start work on the aquaculture facility in the next month or two.

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